A GAME OF CHANCE
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A GAME OF CHANCE
ELLA J. CURTIS
THE FAVOURITE OF FOWTUNK," " ALL l->K HEKSELF," " HIS LAST STAKE,
IN THREE VOLUMES
HUBST AND BLACKETT, LIMITED
13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET
All Ki^hls Rescfved
TILLOTSON AND SON, MAWDSLEY STREET
ALFRED WILLIAMS MOMERIE
Q (BY KIND PERMISSION)
I HAVE THE HONOUR
^ OF DEDICATING
"A GAME OF CHANCE.'
1 H E FIRST VOLUME
I.— TO INDIA
II.— THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS .
III. — THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS
IV. -FIRE AND SMOKE ....
V. — HIS enemy's DAUGHTER .
VI.— THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER
VII.— THE NOMINATION ....
VIII.- THE TALK OF THE TOWN
IX.— AN ADVENTURE ....
X,— OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF
XI. — THE NEWS FROM INDIA .
XII.- MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD
COxNTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
XIII. -THE VISITOR WHO WALKS ON THE GRASS
XIV. — THE rector's HAT .
XV. — OTWAY IX CHAINS .
XVI. — A LETTER FROM JACK
XVII.— NO. 200 (queen's GATE TERRACE
XVIII. — A WOMAX'S FOLLY .
XIX. - LETTY AXD IIER SLAVE .
XX. — ROSSITUR AGAIxX
XXI. — THE LETTERS IN CYPHER.
XXII. — THE STREET BRAWL .
XXIII. — MRS. FORSTER's CONCERT.
XXIV.— OTWAV OBEYS ORDERS
XXV. — LETIY GIVES HER OPINION
XXVI. — THE WEDDING-DAY .
A GAME OF CHANCE.
C H A P T E R I .
Everyone in the place was more or less
excited when the news got abroad that young
John Erskine's regiment was under orders
for India, and the excitement became quite
intense as soon as it was known, positively,
that Sir John and Aunt Louise, and little
Letty were actually going to Portsmouth to
see him off. It was the first event of any
great importance that had happened in the
rather sleepy little town since the young man
VOL. I. B
2 A GAME OF CHANCE.
had joined his regiment, about a year before,
and it was made the most of ; people who
were not interested might have said that
too much was made of it.
But then everything connected with the
Erskines was of importance in the town and
neighbourhood ; and their most private affairs,
in some unaccountable manner, got into the
air, as it seemed, and became public property
even while the family were still talking about
them in whispers and with closed doors. It
might even be said with truth that the gossips
somehow got hold of the vaguest rumours
and served them up as accomplished facts ;
and that sort of thing had gone on for ages,
and would, perhaps, go on for ever. A great
many years ago the facts, or perhaps to speak
more truly, the fictions connected with the
tragic death of a young Erskine at a gaming-
table abroad, were bandied about in the little
town before anyone had had the courage to
break the news of his son's death to a de-
TO INDIA. 3
voted father. And in the same mysterious
way it was known that a sister of the present
Sir John Erskine, who had married young
and not in accordance with the wishes of her
family, was "running a rig," as it was called,
in London, and getting her husband into debt
and difficulties, while, by her friends, she was
supposed to be leading a quiet and orderly
The good people of the small town of
Little Centre Bridge — so called because there
was a Great Centre Bridge some six miles
off — being gifted with this extraordinary
power of divination, or second sight, in
all matters connected with the families of
the lords of the manor — and the gift seemed
hereditary — there is nothing surprising in the
fact that when the doctor's wife, Mrs. Sumner,
and the lawyer's wife, ^Nlrs. \'erity, and Mrs.
Dysart-Smith who was "lady principal" of
the Erskine Colleo^e for Younor Ladies, met at
little Miss ]\Iasham's for afternoon tea, they
4 A GAME OF CHANCE.
should have talked of nothing but the fact
that John Erskine's regiment was ordered to
And it was not such a wonderful or un-
common event after all ; only sons go to India
ev^ry day and take their chance with the rest,
and young John was not such a paragon
that his absence would make a blank, or his
presence cause a sensation. But the fact was,
he was the first Erskine who had become a
soldier since the Erskine who fought and died
at Bannockburn, and his choice of a profes-
sion had been canvassed, and talked over, and
wondered at, long after the slight surprise it
caused to his family and friends had died out.
The Erskines were not a very prolific, but
they were a prosperous family ; now and then,
as was natural, and to be expected, an event
happened that seemed for a time to check
the steady flow of good fortune that followed
them ; a sailor lad would be lost at sea, a
daughter's husband would go to the bad.
TO INDIA. 5
or, perhaps, the daughter herself prove un-
worthy of her name. But the eldest sons,
if not specially gifted in any way, were always
blameless and honourable young fellows, who
went to school and college, travelled a little,
and then settled down in contentment at the
Chase, shooting, fishing, hunting, and dancing
at the county balls ; then, when their time
came, they fell in love and married women
whose families and antecedents would bear
the closest inspection. If these women had
fortunes, so much the better, but no amount
of money would compensate for want of
breeding or levity of conduct.
When the first break in the regular routine
occurred, and young John Erskine's photo-
graph in full uniform was seen by visitors
upon a table in the drawing-room at the
Chase, it was immediately said, not by the
family, of course, that further innovations
might presently be expected. He would
never marry the " right woman," that is,
6 A GAME OF CHANCE.
the young lady his father had picked out
for him ; he would choose for himself, and
there was no knowing what would happen
by and by. Everyone knew the sort of girl
that officers fell in love with in garrison
towns, and young John, although very
amiable and agreeable, was just the sort of
easy-going, unsuspicious young fellow to be
taken in. That was the talk of the little
The family at the Chase, naturally enough,
had no misgivings ; John was going to be a
soldier, but, all the same, he would marry the
right woman when the time came. There
were people who said that his father, Sir
John, a fine, tall, handsome man of fifty-five
or sixty, would marry again and astonish
everyone' He lost his wife when John was
a lad at school and his daughter, Letty, a
baby of three or four years old. There was
an interval of over ten years between the
brother and sister, and when Lady Erskine,
TO INDIA. 7
whose health had failed soon after Letty was
born, died in bringing her third child pre-
maturely into the world, her maiden sister —
her senior by nearly twenty years — came to
the Chase and devoted herself to the widower
and his children.
Miss Lambton, or Aunt Louise as she w^as
called, was a pattern maiden aunt ; the very
essence of amiability, sensible, gentle, good-
tempered and refined; but she was absolutely
without even one strong point in her character,
and wholly devoid of a will of her own. She
would dance to any tune, wild or serious,
piped by any player, and she accepted any
proposition, no matter how preposterous or
unorthodox ; she never argued ; was never
known to utter a contradiction, and vaeue
surmise was to her as satisfactory and con-
clusive as testimony taken on oath.
With her brother-in-law she o-ot on ad-
mirably ; she was in every respect a striking
contrast to the wife he had lost. Lady
8 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Erskine had been a very pretty, self-willed,
quick-tempered, loving and impulsive little
woman, nearly twenty years younger than
Sir John, who argued persistently and con-
tradicted flatly for the mere love of argument
and contradiction. She was fond of her
husband, but she took delight in teasing him,
and it is impossible to say what storms might
not have arisen to disturb the peace of their
joint lives had not all her faults and failings
been buried in her early grave.
When Aunt Louise reigned in her sister's
room. Sir John left the management of his
house and children entirely to her, and lived
the out-of-door life that suited him, and that
he loved. But Aunt Louise was, in reality,
managed by the household and children ; the
servants were her masters and mistresses ;
they complained to her if they had fault to
find with her arrangements, and she was
occasionally discharged, so to speak, by her
domestics, not her domestics by her. But
TO INDIA. 9
she was quite unconscious of her state of
As for the children, they domineered over
her without mercy. They issued their im-
perious commands to Aunt Louise, and Aunt
Louise meekly obeyed, although her nephew,
who was accustomed to school discipline,
would have bowed before authority had any
been exercised over him. Little Letty had
been spoiled from her cradle, and if she had
not had, by nature, the sweetest disposition
in the world, she would have been ruined by
the joint indulgences of father and aunt. She
was a pretty little brown-eyed maid of fifteen,
when her brother, to whom she was devoted,
joined his regiment, and she was the only
member of the household who really rejoiced
over his choice of a profession.
When his reo-iment was under orders for
India, and he came to the Chase to say good-
bye, he brought with him a young brother-
officer, and Aunt Louise was half-shocked
lO A GAME OF CHANCE.
and half-frightened at the premature flirtation
that was carried on between him and little
Letty. He was a handsome, merry lad —
younger in years and in ways than his friend
John Erskine — and he asked no better fun
than to be carried off by Letty for a long
ramble across the country. The pair would
be out for hours, accompanied by half-a-dozen
dogs, but as they always came back safe, as
well as tired, happy and not too clean, Aunt
Louise had not the heart to scold her pet, or
to forbid the expedition that was planned in
her hearing for the next day.
There was not a trace of sentiment in
Letty's frank liking for her new friend ; her
brother was the dearest fellow in the world,
but Arthur Filmer was, if possible, a more
delightful companion than John. Everything
was new to Arthur ; he had never been in
that part of the country before, so Letty had
the pleasure of introducing him to all her
favourite haunts ; and then he had so much
TO INDIA. ir
to tell her of his own beautiful home in
Devonshire — legends and tales of wild Dart-
moor and Exmoor, that were far more thril-
ling than any of the somewhat twaddling
kind of stories provided by the timid Aunt
Louise for the amusement of her niece.
'' You must come and see us at Brentmore
some day," the young man said about twent)^
times durino: his short visit to the Chase,
" when Jack and I come home on leave.
We can give your father lots of prime
shooting and fishing, and I'll show you every
place worth seeing for miles round. Re-
member, it's a bargain."
Those were his last words as he said
good-bye to the girl at the Litde Centre
Bridge railway station, and Mrs. Sumner and
Mrs. Verity, who happened to be there
changing their library books at \V. H. Smith
and Son's stall, looked at one another and
smiled knowingly when they saw how the
handsome young fellow leaned out of the
12 A GAME OF CHANCE.
carriage window to say good-bye once more
to the pretty little girl who gave him just as
hearty a kiss as she gave to her brother.
" I think she Is too old to be allowed to
kiss young men at railway stations, don't
you, Mrs. Smith ?" Mrs. Sumner said when
she described what had taken place to the
principal of Ersklne College.
Letty did not hear any of the comments
that were made upon her conduct, nor the
prophecies that were delivered upon her fate
In the future If some timely check were not
put upon her propensity to flirt before it was
too late. It was simply as a pleasant com-
panion that she missed Arthur, and she told
him so several times In the childishly effusive
letter she wrote to thank him for a copy of
Blackmore's " Lorna Doone," which, by per-
mission of Aunt Louise, arrived at the Chase
the day but one after the young man left.
It was after dinner on the day of their
departure that a bright idea struck Sir John.
TO INDIA. 13,
*' Why shouldn't we all go and see them
off at Portsmouth," he said. " Let me see ;
when does the Great Pyramid sail ? You
know, Letty, Til be bound."
Letty did know ; the troopship with the
99th Dragoons on board was to sail that
very day week, the 2nd of October.
*'A11 right," said Sir John. "We'll see
the last of them. You write for rooms,
Louise, and Lll put off the fellows who are
coming here for the ist."
Letty's eyes were sparkling. *'And I may
write and tell John ?" she said.
THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS.
It was in the middle of September that
Arthur Filmer and Letty Erskine were ram-
bling together about the country, and one
beautiful evening, just about the time the
party at the Chase was sitting down to
dinner, a young man and a girl were walking
side by side along a glade in a wood, about
fifty miles from Little Centre Bridge, and the
low sun that was streaming through the
open windows of the Erskines' dining-room,
and playing upon young John's handsome,
boyish face, was glinting through the boles
of the Stillingfort oaks and beeches, and
throwing fantastic lights and shadows upon
the uncovered head of the girl and the
THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 1 5
brown velveteen shooting - jacket of the
As young John turned away his dazzled
eyes, and suggested the letting down of a
blind, he thought how many years he had,
young as he was, been half- blinded by the
sun on late summer evenings in that very
spot ; and he wondered vaguely, as people
do, what would have happened before his
next long visit to the dear old home. Of
course he would often be there again ; it was
only a question of time ; in a few years he
would be in E norland on lone: leave, and
he would find the dear old governor and
Aunt Louise just the same ; they were the
sort of people who never grow old. Letty
would be grown up, of course ; but not
married, for he must be at her wedding.
The girl, who was walking through the
woodland glade with the sunlight glinting
on her f^Ir hair, had never heard of the
Ersklnes, and yet the mysterious power
1 6 A GAME OF CHANCE.
we call Destiny was already drawing her
towards them, and was about to make the
name of more Interest and Importance to her
than any name she had ever heard.
Her own name was Bella Rossltur ; she
was the daughter of Farmer Rossltur, who
was one of the principal tenants on Lord
Stilllngfort's estate, and the man beside
her was Jem Hathaway, one of his lord-
ship's keepers. The wood was his lordship's
property, and It was part of Jem's business
to walk through It and about It continually
at all hours of the day and night with a gun
on his shoulder. But whether It was also his
business to be accompanied, as on this par-
ticular evening, by Farmer Rossltur's hand-
some daughter, may be left an open question.
Whether It was or was not she was with
him now, and, as a matter of fact, she had
been with him almost every evening for
nearly a month. She did not 11^ at home,
for she was a lady's maid, and had come
THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 1 7
from London to say good-bye to her friends,
as she was going to India the first week in
October with her new mistress, a very young
lady who was going out to join her father.
Bella Rossitur was a remarkably handsome
girl, and it was a curious fact that there was
a certain amount of likeness between her and
the young lady by whom she had been
recently engaged. It was only when those
who knew both of them saw them apart that
the likeness was at all remarkable ; put them
side by side and it seemed to vanish al-
together. In fact it was only what has been
called a reminding resemblance. Bella was
a much finer woman than her mistress, and
she was also a little older ; but they both had
a profusion of beautiful, light, almost tiaxen
hair, and very dark eyes. The eyes of the
maid were, in some respects, more lovely
than those of the mistress, but what they had
in beauty they lacked in softness and sweet-
ness, and they were also a trifle bold at
VOL. I. c
1 8 A GAME OF CHANCE.
times. Her lips, too, were fuller and redder,
and her nose, although the same in shape,
was much larger and more pronounced. Also
she was taller by fully an inch, and her figure
was more developed ; indeed, at that time,
the figure of her young mistress, Miss Amy
Gordon, was rather thin and willowy, but
very pretty and graceful withal.
Bella was very much pleased with her new
engagement ; she loved change and excite-
ment, and she knew she was sure of the
one and hoped to have the other, not only
during the voyage, but also in India. She
had a vivid imagination, and it was already
at work. Who could tell what was in store
for her. With her handsome face and fine
figure and her opportunities, she ought to be
able to attain a good position in life.
At present she had an humble victim in
Jem Hathaway. They had been little chil-
dren and boy and girl together, and he was
desperately in love with her now ; but she
THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 1 9
was not going to marry a gamekeeper, and
besides, Jem was such an ugly fellow, not
handsome and dashing like another old friend
of hers, who happened to be in the village
just then ; a young soldier he was, too, and
he looked so bold and manly in his uniform
that the very sight of him was almost enough
to turn a girl's head.
And was it not just the oddest thing in
the world ? George Frederick Pottinger —
she always spoke of him by the two names —
was not only a soldier, but an officer's
servant, and he was going with his regiment
and his master to India. It was even pos-
sible that she and her mistress mi^fht sail in
the same vessel ; but she was not Qfoinor to
tell Jem anything about it, he was so jealous
there was no knowing what he might say or
He was not very talkative this evening,
and she was beginning to feel bored ; if it
had been George Frederick he would not
20 A GAME OF CHANCE.
have let such an opportunity for love-making
slip through his fingers ! She was planning
what excuse she could make to get away
when Jem spoke.
'' India's a cruel way off, Bella," he said,
** I wish you weren't going."
'* And I wish I was going to-morrow," she
answered, briskly. '' I am tired of being
here ; the first week was pleasant enough,"
and she shot a saucy look at him, '' but now
you're always grumpy and cross. I am sure
you didn't speak more than two words to me
last night when I went to take tea with your
mother, and "
" What are you laughing at ?'' In a
moment the girl's handsome eyes were blaz-
ing with anger. *' Is it because George
Frederick Pottinger came with me that
you're vexed ?" she cried, in a passion.
*' How could I help that ? He told me your
mother had asked him."
THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 2 1
'' Like his cheek !" Jem muttered. Then,
after a pause, " I tell you what it is, Bella,"
he said, and he turned and faced her, " I
won't stand being made a fool of any longer ;
you must choose between him and me. You
know well enough I don't think there's
another woman in the world like you. Stay
in England and let's get married at once ; I
can keep you almost like a lady, and I'm to
have the head-keeper's place when old Stub-
bins is pensioned off in the spring. You can
do what you like with me ; you know you
can," the poor fellow added, for something in
her face told him he was not going to win
her, and his disappointment was very bitter.
'' Like a lady," she repeated, scornfully ;
''you couldn't do that, you know, Jem, unless
you were a gentleman."
" You need never do a stroke of work
unless you like, and Lll buy you a silk dress
" Much obliged to you, Lm sure, Jem," she
22 A GAME OF CHANCE.
answered, *'but I couldn't marry you. I like
you well enough, but I want to see the world
and amuse myself."
*' And are you going to marry Pottlnger?"
he almost shouted. " By ," and he
swore a great oath, " if you do I'll shoot
him, or myself, for I couldn't bear to live !"
'' But he hasn't asked me ; I'll swear he
hasn't, If you like. Oh, Jem, dear Jem, for
shame to be so cross and to talk of shooting
people !" She laid her hand upon his arm
and looked up Into his face, smiling at him.
" I never saw anyone so pretty as you,
Bella," he said. "I can't bear to think of
your going away among those black people.
Didn't they break out once, and kill all the
women and children ? Don't go ; even If
you won't have me, don't go."
He laid his gun on the ground, and tried
to take her in his arms. " One kiss, Bella,"
he said, ''only one, and I'll not worry you
THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 23
" Remember your promise," she said. She
wanted to get away from him ; someone
might be coming to look for her.
'*Ay," he said, "it's hard, but as long as
you don't take him I'll be patient and hope."
She let him kiss her, and then, without a
word, she broke away from him and ran down
a little pathway through the trec^s that she
knew would lead her to her home.
In about ten days from that evening Bella
Rossitur was to go to London to enter upon
her new service, and every hour as it passed,
made poor Jem Hathaway more and more
miserable. Her assurance that she was not
going to marry Pottinger had had the two-
fold effect of allaying his jealousy and of
buoying up his hopes. She was only trying
him, he thought ; she did not really mean to
go away, and when the day, which she had
named as her last at home, came, she would
tell him she had changed her mind and
meant to stay with him. His hopes increased
24 A GAME OF CHANCE.
when he found out that Pottinger had gone
away, but he did not know that he had simply
left for a day or two on business, for his fur-
lough had not yet expired.
It was very trying, however, to note that
Bella kept out of his way ; she always had
some excuse to make for not walking with
him In the wood, and for not visiting his
mother. He went to her father's house twice
a day sometimes, but although the farmer was
civil, and Bella apparently glad to see him,
she would not promise to meet him anywhere
out of doors and alone.
Her stay at home was now very short,
and his newly-born hopes began all of a
sudden to die out rapidly. That kiss — how
the remembrance of It was cherished ! — meant
nothing after all ; and yet how freely she had
given It, and how beautiful she looked as she
raised her face to his. He felt sometimes
as if he would rather kill her than lose
THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 25
It was the 20th of September, and on the
23rd he knew she was to go to London.
Three times during the day he went to the
farm, and the third time she told him quite
crossly that she did not mean to go out at all
that evening, and that she wished he would
mind his business and let her alone.
Shouldering his gun he turned away dis-
consolately, and tramped, his heart growing
sore and angry with every step, to a distant
part of the preserves. He was on his way
home about nine o'clock, and avoiding a
short cut that he knew, he went a quarter-of-
a-mile round in order to pass the spot where
his last interview with Bella had taken place,
Perhaps something had impelled her to come
out, and that he mlorht find her waitino^ for
He came out into the glade about two
hundred yards or so from the tree under
which they were standing when he kissed
her, and by the light of the full moon he saw
26 A GAME OF CHANCE.
she was there, but not alone. Her com-
panion was easily recognised by his uniform,
even if the tall upright figure, and cap
perched on three hairs, had not betrayed the
good-looking young dragoon, Pottlnger. Jem
knew that he was unobserved, so, crossing the
narrow glade he disappeared among the trees,
and worked his way noiselessly through the
brushwood until he found himself within
sight of the pair again ; within hearing, too,
for they did not speak In whispers.
He crept nearer and nearer.
" And so you never told Jem I was
going to India, too ?" he heard Pottlnger say.
"What a lark! And In the same ship!
Think of that, my beauty."
Poor Jem ground his teeth as he heard the
words. How cruelly she had deceived him,
and how happy and beautiful she looked
standing there in the moonlight, with the
soldier's arm round her waist ! Hathaway
placed his gun against a tree and felt In the
THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 2/
breast pocket of his shooting-jacket for some-
thing which for ten days or a fortnight past
he had carried about with him. There were
gangs of poachers In the neighbourhood, and
armed with their guns only the keepers were
apt to be at a disadvantage."
" I heard from master this morning,"
Pottlno^er went on. " He's home on leave
now, and I must go over to Little Centre
Bridge, to his father's place, to-morrow; I am
to take some dogs up to town for him."
**'\Vhat Is his name ?" asked Bella.
'* Ersklne. Mr. John Ersklne. His father
is Sir John. I'm glad Mr. Ersklne has
engaged me to wait on him ; I shan't have to
wear uniform except on parade."
"Shan't you Indeed?" cried Bella, with a
shade of disappointment in her tone ; half the
young soldier's attraction for her, had he but
known It, lay in his scarlet coat and jingling
spurs. She turned the conversation by ask-
ing the name of the ship.
28 A GAME OF CHANCE.
"She's called the Great Pyramid," Pottin-
ger answered. " You will be surprised when
you see her ; she's as big as a tower. And
now look here, Bella, If I catch you flirting
with anyone on board "
'' Oh ! If you're going to be jealous like
Jem," she Interrupted —
" Jem !" was the contemptuous answer.
*' What business has a fellow like that — a
common gamekeeper — to raise his eyes to a
girl like you ?"
Before the words were fairly uttered there
was a sharp report behind the speaker, and a
bullet whistled past his ear, and fell harmless.
A loud scream from Bella was followed by a
second shot, and the noise of a heavy body
falling in the brushwood. Pottinger dashed
in, followed by the terrified girl, and the next
moment they were both kneeling beside the
bleeding and apparently lifeless body of poor
Jem Hathaway. In his right hand was
grasped a revolver.
THE SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS. 29
As Pottinger raised him he opened his
eyes, and fixed them upon his hated rival ;
then, with an effort, he turned them upon
Bella. " Curse — my curse upon you
both," he muttered ; then his head fell
back upon the soldier's arm and he was
Goaded to madness by jealousy, the
unhappy man had fired first, either at Bella
or at his rival — it was of course never known
which of them he meant to kill, — and then
shot himself Pottino^er and Bella were both
examined at the inquest, and the fact that the
men were rivals naturally came out and was
made the most of ; but stories of love,
jealousy, attempted murder and suicide are
not so very uncommon, and a verdict of
*' temporary insanity " was returned.
The departure of Mr. John Erskine's
soldier-servant, and of Miss Amy Gordon's
new maid, was delayed for one day only; and
it was with the remembrance of poor Jem
30 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Hathaway's dead face and dying words to
haunt her, that Bella Rossitur began her new
THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS.
Miss Amy Gordon was extremely interested
and excited at the idea of going to India in a
troopship; her ideas on the subject of both
troops and ships were extremely vague, but
she had an idea that life on board the ship
might possibly be made more agreeable by
the presence of the troops. She had the
ordinary and commonplace love of an empty-
headed schoolgirl for red coats and military
bands ; she also loved dancing, and was not
averse to flirtation.
She did .not belong to the advanced sec-
tion of young women, and she had not the
slightest desire for the higher education we
hear so much of at present. Books, unless
32 A GAME OF CHANCE.
they took the form of novels, she never
opened, but in the matter of dress she was
decidedly an expert. The great question —
what to wear, would occupy her for
hours, and upon her elaborate Indian outfit
days, weeks, and even months, had been
bestowed. It was now finished and packed
away in tin-lined cases ready for embarka-
tion, and nothing remained to be done but
to make the most of the small space left for
the garments that were to be worn during the
It seemed, to the pretty spoiled girl, that
those in authority might have afforded her a
little more room on board the Great Pyramid,
but her petulant grumbling was of no avail,
and the amount of time she, and her clever
maid, Rossitur, spent in the stowage of
numerous articles that, in all probability,
would prove quite useless on the voyage,
was really amazing,
'' Rossitur is a treasure ! I really consider
THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. T,^
myself very fortunate to have got her." Miss
Gordon made that remark to her aunt, Mrs.
Cartwright, with whom she was spending her
last weeks in England, several times a day.
" She seems to understand her business
very thoroughly," Mrs. Cartwright answered,
"but I cannot help wishing she was a little
older, and a little less good-looking. You
are so young and pretty yourself, my dear —
and, really, when she is dressed for walking,
a stranger might take you for sisters."
Miss Amy had heard that remark before,
and she did not like it. " I do not think it is
very complimentary to me, aunt, to say I am
like my own maid," she said. '' Rossitur is
not bad-looking, I know, but I cannot see the
likeness to me."
" I do not think you need expect to keep
her long, my dear. She is sure to have
plenty of admirers, and I do trust she is
steady and well-behaved."
'' Goodness, aunt, what disagreeable things
VOL. I. D
34 A GAME OF CHANCE.
you say. She may have as many admirers
as she Hkes, but I am not going to let her
marry anyone, If I can help It ; but she has a
lover already, and — Isn't It funny? — he Is
an officer's servant, and he Is coming out
with the regiment on board the Great
'' Do you mean that his master Is In the
99th?" said Mrs. Cartwrlght.
Now Miss Gordon was going out under
the care of the wife of the Colonel of John
Ersklne's regiment, and the young lady knew
already as much as Rossltur could tell her
of Pottlnger's young master.
" Mr. Ersklne Is the only son of Sir
John Ersklne, of the Chase — somewhere,"
Miss Amy answered. '' Very rich county
people they are. I am thinking of setting
my cap at this John Ersklne If I get the
chance ! Wouldn't it be fun to arrive In
India engaged. All the men In papa's regi-
ment would be so awfully disappointed. And,
THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. 35
oh, aunt," the young lady rattled on, " do you
know that a dreadful thing happened where
Rossltur's home is, just before she came up
to town ? A man shot himself because she
wouldn't marry him, and she saw him lying
dead. Wasn't it awful ? I said to her,
' What strong nerves you must have ;'
and, do you know, she turned a little pale
as she was telling me about it, and I gave
her my salts to smell. I could not help
thinking, too, how dreadful it would be if
Fred Leslie were to shoot himself on my
Mrs. Cartwright smiled. '' I do not think
you need be uneasy about Mr. Leslie, my
dear," she said, ''he has not taken your
refusal very much to heart."
'' Oh, do you think so r Miss Amy said in
a disappointed tone. '' I am sure I made it
plain enough that I was only amusing myself,
but he never seemed to see it."
" But when he found it out no doubt it
36 A GAME OF CHANCE.
helped to cure him. My dear Amy, you
must not be vexed If I say that you ought to
be more careful about encouraging men for
the pleasure of refusing them. It's the most
heartless and unwomanly trick a girl can be
" But Fred Leslie was such a donkey,
" He Is what you call a donkey, perhaps,
but I call him a sensible and clever young
"Then I don't like clever sensible people,"
Miss Amy said, decidedly, as she got up
and began to examine the set of her skirts
In a long mirror. " There Is something
wrong with this drapery," she said, " I know
there Is. I wonder Rossitur did not notice
the way It sticks out In one place and
falls In another; I must show It to her."
She went to the door and called " Rossitur,
" Coming ma'am," a voice answered from
THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. '7^']
above, and presently the girl who had walked
with poor Jem Hathaway in the Stillingfort
woods came into the room, dressed in a neat
well-cut black gown, and over it a fantastic
little muslin apron.
Mrs. Cartwright looked curiously at mis-
tress and maid as they stood side by side
before the mirror. "They are not so much
alike when they are together," she said to
herself, "and I declare, I think Rossitur is
by far the handsomer of the two."
And now it is the 30th of September, and
on the 2nd of October the magnificent ship,
the Great Pyramid, is to sail for Bombay
with the 99th Dragoons on board. There is
business and bustle afloat and ashore ; the
last horse has been safely shipped, but the
baggage is not yet all stowed away. The
poop of the huge vessel is bright with ladies'
dresses, there is a buzz of conversation
mingled with gay laughter, and the sailors
38 A GAME OF CHANCE.
are flitting about hither and thither as busy-
A voyage to India now is more Hke a pro-
longed pic-nic than an actual voyage ; and so
the men and women felt who were to mxake
their home on board the Great Pyramid for
the next few weeks, while those who were
left behind felt but a passing regret. It was
such an easy matter to go backwards and
forwards that it was absurd to grieve over
the temporary separation.
Sir John Erskine, Letty, and Aunt Louise
had arrived from the Chase a couple of days
before, and taken up their quarters at an
hotel, and Letty had already explored every
nook and corner of the big ship, under the
guidance of her friend Arthur Filmer. The
girl was wild with delight, and the excitement
and novelty of the scene ; and she asked so
many questions that it was fortunate for
her guide that she rarely waited for an
THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. 39
Sir John was the only one of the party
who was not in good spirits ; now that the
moment of parting with his son was so near
he felt sad and depressed, and unable to
shake off a vague presentiment of evil. But
he did his best to seem cheerful, and to laugh
and talk with the rest, and many times he
stopped short when he caught himself saying
to himself, as he looked at John: "Who
knows ? Perhaps I may never see him
The young man was touched and subdued,
too ; his father's low spirits infected him, but
he was determined not to break down.
" There is one lovely girl on board," he
said, when they were all at dinner at the
hotel on the last evening. '' She came from
London late this afternoon with our Colonel's
wife, but they went to their cabins at once,
so I only caught a glimpse of such a pair of
"And, by Jove!" said Arthur Filmer, "the
40 A GAME OF CHANCE.
maid Is as handsome as the mistress. You
didn't see her, did you, Jack ?"
'*No ; but Pottlnger, my man, knows her.
I asked him if he knew who the young lady
was who was going out with the Colonel's
wife, and somehow the fellow gave me to
understand that the maid came from his part
of the world, and I have an Idea that she's
his sweetheart. I don't envy her If she
marries Pottlnger. He's a queer fish, but a
'' And he has deuced good taste If he
wants to marry that young woman I saw
looking after the cabin trunks," said Fllmer;
"she's a regular stunner and no mistake."
'' Remember, you must tell us all about
the young lady when you write. Jack," said
Letty. " But you must not fall In love with
her, you know, for we all expect you to marry
Lucy Knollys when you come home."
" Be quiet, Letty," said her father. ''You
should not mention names."
THE GREAT PYRAMID SAILS. 4 1
" Oh, Arthur knows all about It," said the
little lady, quite unabashed. " Don't you,
The last evening passed all too quickly.
The father and son took a quiet stroll
together after dinner ; Arthur and Letty
played a game of chess, and Aunt Louise sat
near, as In duty bound, and fell asleep In her
chair. By noon next day the last good-byes
were spoken, and amid the ringing cheers of
friends and Idle spectators on shore, and the
strains of " God save the Queen " and '' Auld
Lang Syne," played alternately by the regi-
mental band on board, the Great Pyramid
steamed away from the dockyard jetty.
As long as the figures of the two young
men were discernible Aunt Louise and Letty
waved their handkerchiefs and kissed their
hands. Sir John strained his eyes after the
vessel, but somehow she looked all blurred
and indistinct to him. He felt, too, an un-
accountable lump In his throat, and It seemed
42 A GAME OF CHANCE.
as if it was the face of the lad's mother he
saw before him.
Was it really a presentiment ? Was It
fated that he was not to see his son again —
poor Conny's boy ? The mist before his
eyes grew thicker, and then he could no
longer hide that it was caused by tears.
He felt as if he must break down when
Letty touched his arm. " Oh, papa," she
said, "do take the opera glass and look at
the pretty girl who is standing beside Jack
FIRE AND SMOKE.
" It is the most insolent, the most audacious
thing I ever heard in all my life."
It was Sir John Erskine who spoke, and it
was to the Vicar of Little Centre Bridge —
Dr. Murray, that he addressed himself. But,
although he had but one auditor, the majority
of Sir John's friends and acquaintances in the
town would have echoed his speech with
The occasion, or rather the circumstance,
that drew it forth was this : The Conserva-
tive member for the southern division of
Stoneshire, in which Little Centre Bridge
was situated, had died suddenly ; Sir John, a
sound Tory of the old-fashioned type, was
44 A GAME OF CHANCE.
asked to stand In the dead man's room ; and,
after a little demur, he consented. He had
no great desire for public life, and, above
all things, he abhorred party strife, but he
thought It was clearly his duty to come
forward now. And, besides, It might be a
good thing to keep the seat warm for young
John. He might, perhaps, like to step Into
it when he came home.
Everyone said there would be no contest —
that Sir John would have a walk over ; but
suddenly a rumour began to circulate In the
town that the Liberals were about to start a
candidate — an out and out Radical, people
said — who was prepared to go all lengths,
and to promise anything and everything In
order to gain the seat. For a long time Sir
John scoffed at the Idea that the other side
really meant to oppose him. He was aware
that for some years past Liberalism had been
spreading in the country, and that In Great
Centre Bridge especially there were several
FIRE AND SMOKE. 45
influential people who had deserted the old
Tory side ; but that he, an Erskine, should
encounter serious opposition was monstrous.
It was over three full years since John had
gone to India with his regiment, and he was
not yet complaining of the climate or thinking
of getting leave. On the contrary, India was
still to him the most delightful place he had
ever been in, and the three years had passed
with almost incredible swiftness. At the
Chase they had, naturally, been slower in
their flight and less exciting. At their close,
Sir John perhaps looked a little older, a little
more bald on the top of his head ; was a little
slower in his movements, and perhaps a little
more inclined to drop asleep over a book ;
but it was in Letty that the greatest alteration
was visible. The pretty, merry child was
now a lovely, high-spirited girl — healthy,
happy, and as light-hearted and full of mis-
chief as when she was but ten years old.
She had not been very carefully educated,
46 A GAME OF CHANCE.
but then, as she was not specially intellectual,
what was the use of cramming her her father
said. She had had, since her brother went
away, the advantage of masters at Mrs.
Dysart-Smith's college, and ]\Irs. Smith was
very proud indeed of the fact that Sir John
Erskine allowed his daughter to attend select
classes — she took care that the classes were
very select — at her establishment.
The Erskines were almost as sacred in the
eyes of Mrs. Dysart-Smith as the tooth of
Buddha is to his devoted followers ; so when
she heard that Sir John was to be opposed
by a Radical candidate, she was perfectly
furious, and she stirred up all the ladies of
the town into the most vigorous partisanship
of the Tory side.
The time seems favourable for a brief des-
cription of the town of Little Centre Bridge,
novv- that it is about to be disturbed by the
turmoil of a contested election ; but it has not
many peculiarities to distinguish it from other
FIRE AND SMOKE. 47
countr}- towns of the same size and impor-
tance. Perhaps the most notable thing about
it is the fact that the wide gates, with the
*' Erskine lion rampant" upon the posts, that
stood at the end of the long avenue, and shut
in Sir John's beautiful park, opened upon the
High Street, and that the picturesque old
red brick Manor House itself was visible
from all the principal parts of the town.
Opposite the entrance gate of the Chase
was the Parish Church — a beautiful old
buildinor, coeval with the Manor House, and
scarcely less reverenced by the inhabitants
of Little Centre Bridge than the Erskines
themselves, who. for generations past, had
had the presentation to the living.
The High Street was fairly wide and
imposing, and not unpicturesque from the
irregularity of the houses. It was plenti-
fully lined with shops, that put on at certain
seasons of the year quite the West-End-
of- London stvle in the dressinor of their
48 A GAME OF CHANCE.
windows. There were, besides, numerous
smaller streets, which were wholly with-
out the great pretensions of the principal
thoroughfare. But, notwithstanding their
rather humble appearance, there were people
who said that goods of a better class could
be bought in them than in the more showy-
Miss Lambton, it was well known, scarcely
ever shopped in the High Street ; but the
carriage and horses from the Chase were
often to be seen at Simpsons', the drapers,
in Manor Road. To be sure the Post Office
was in High Street, and she was very often
there ; but then nothing was sold at the Post
Office except stationery and the London
At the end of the High Street nearest to
the Church, stood the Young Ladies' College,
presided over by Mrs. Dysart- Smith. She
was a portly and imposing woman, who
swept up to her pew in church with as
FIRE AND SMOKE. 49
majestic an air as If the eyes of Europe were
upon her ! Even the most ungainly of the
young ladies under her charge could not fail
to acquire some dignity of carriage from
the constant contemplation of Mrs. Dysart-
Smith's movements ; she was a living lesson
in deportment, and as she never, so to speak,
stood at ease, she could be studied every day
and all day long.
The Rectory was not where one would
expect to find it, near the church, but it
was very near Mrs. Dysart-Smith's college ;
indeed from the upper windows of that estab-
lishment it was possible to look over the tall
hedge that shut out the road, and so right
down into the Rector's pretty garden. Even
the peaches could be seen ripening upon the
south wall, and the cook and the gardener
detected in a flirtation as they pulled the peas
for the Rector's dinner.
Dr. Murray was a bachelor, and the
gossips of Little Centre Bridge had grown
VOL. I. E
50 A GAME OF CHANCE.
tired of selecting a suitable wife for him.
They had once started the idea that he was
in love with Miss Lambton and afraid to pro-
pose for her. That delusion lasted two years
or more ; then It was suddenly dropped, and
the prevailing belief was that the Rector did
not know his own mind ; and, that being the
case, how was it possible for anyone to know
it for him ?
Dr. Murray was decidedly the most popular
man In the parish ; not perhaps because he
was clever; an excellent preacher, and a hard
worker, but because he was a bachelor. The
rector of any given parish may be obstinate,
dogmatic, self-sufficient and ignorant ; he
may mumble in the desk and roar in the
pulpit, but. If he Is a bachelor, or a widower,
his shortcomings will be overlooked. If not
wholly ignored, by every one of his par-
ishioners of the better class, if they have
daughters to marry.
It has already been stated that the people
FIRE AND SMOKE. 5 1
of Little Centre Bridge took a great interest
in everything directly or indirectly connected
with the Erskine family ; indeed they were
considered as much public property as the
old town pump. But of late the family may
be said to have distanced the pump, for the
supply of water yielded by the latter had
been condemned by the local officers of
health as unfit for use ; so the handle of the
pump had been removed by order, and the
occupation of the pump was gone.
But no matter what amount of decadence
moral or physical, a county family may suffer
from, it cannot be suppressed by any board
In the world, and It may safely be said that If
the Erskine family, or any member of it,
had fallen into evil ways, the interest taken In
them generally, and In the erring member in
particular, would have increased rather than
diminished. Everyone in the town, from the
highest to the lowest, liked to see Miss
Lambton borne about the streets lnj^jl^|^^^}^rge,' p ilhi^qu
52 A GAME OF CFIANCE.
well-appointed barouche, drawn by the hand-
some dappled greys. The meek little lady
always looked lost in the big roomy carriage;
even her little niece Letty, who fidgeted
about with her back to the horses, and
knocked her aunt's many parcels down into
the bottom of the carriage — Miss Lambton
always had a great deal of shopping to do —
seemed much bigger and more imposing than
the grown up woman, who would have been
more at home in a donkey chair.
Now that Letty was eighteen, and quite a
grown up young lady, she had a pretty little
pony carriage of her own. It was a tiny thing
drawn by a pair of animals scarcely bigger
than dogs, and called by their young mistress
by the ridiculous names of Fire and Smoke.
Aunt Louise was too nervous to trust herself
to the little pair ; she preferred the greys and
the steady old coachman, who had driven her
for years, and Sir John was too big, he said,
for the pony carriage ; he had no room for
FIRE AND SMOKE. 53
his legs. So Miss Letty drove about alone ;
sometimes she took the smallest and lightest
of the grooms with her on the back seat, but,
as a rule, she went out by herself. '' I want
to meet with an adventure, if I can," she
often said, " but Fire and Smoke are much to
steady to give me an opportunity."
Letty was very much interested in the
coming election, and extremely angry with
the Liberal candidate who had started up to
oppose her father. When she heard that he
had actually arrived in Little Centre Bridge,
and taken rooms at the New Hotel, near the
railway station — it was not likely that he
would patronise the Erskine Arms, in the
High Street — she declared that, by hook or
by crook, she must see him.
'' What do Radicals look like, papa r she
said, when she told him the news of Mr.
Otway's arrival in the town. '' I want to be
able to know the man if I happen to meet
him. Are they always short and fat, or tall
54 A GAME OF CHANCE.
and thin ? I saw a fat stumpy man, a
stranger, at the Post Office this morning, and
I was sure It was Mr. Otway, but they told
me he was a traveller In the paper line."
"Dr. Murray says Otway Is a good-looking
fellow of about thirty," said Sir John, "and a
barrister In very good practice."
"Then he Is a gentleman," put In Miss
Lambton. " I am glad they have not
brought down a soap boiler or a tallow
chandler to oppose you, John."
" I do not see that It makes much differ-
ence, myself," Sir John answered. " The
mischief Is In the opposition, not the man.""
Days passed, but no one at the Chase had
seen Mr. Otway, although more than enough
had been heard. He had spoken at public
meetings In both Great and Little Centre
Bridge, but, of course, his own followers only
had been present, and the general Impression
was that he had disappointed expectation.
He had not said exactly what people wanted
FIRE AND SMOKE. 55
to hear, and he had been very guarded In
the matter of promises. Letty was as much
disappointed as anyone ; she had been hoping
for a fierce attack upon her father, and Mr.
Otway had not once mentioned his oppo-
About two days after the meeting she was
driving home rather late In the afternoon ; It
was early spring-time, and the lamps were
already lighted In the streets, and there were
a great many people about. There was a
fresh wind blowing In Letty's face, and It
gave her a brilliant colour ; she was also a
little flurried, for Fire and Smoke, who had
been left standing at a shop door much
longer than they liked, were rather out of
temper and inclined to be troublesome.
Letty, who did not approve of insubordi-
nation, except In herself, touched them up
freely with the whip, and, as luck would
have it, just as she turned them Into High
Street, they nearly ran Into a German band
5-6 A GAME OF CHANCE.
that was braying before the Erskine Arms.
There was a stampede and some profane
language. Fire and Smoke got restive, and
presently Letty found that they had left the
road and were cleverly backing the little
carriage up to the plate - glass window of
Mr. Carat, watchmaker and jeweller.
"And he is on the Radical side!" she
thought, as she shut her eyes and waited to
hear the crash. But no crash was heard, and
when she looked again she saw that a man
was leading the ponies out of danger. She
was so nervous she did not observe him
very closely, but she thought he was rather
forward, for, having piloted the little carriage
into the middle of the street, he quietly
stepped into it, seated himself beside her,
took the reins and dashed off at a smart pace,
saying as he did so, '' It is rather dark ; allow
me to drive you home."
He evidently knew who she was, for w^hen
they reached the big gates opposite the
FIRE AND SMOKE. 57
church — they always stood open in the day-
time — he turned in quite naturally, and
whipped Fire and Smoke up the long avenue
in fine style.
Sir John chanced to be standing on the
steps smoking. " Hallo, Letty !" he said.
"Oh, papa!" she cried, jumping out and
runnine to him. " I have had an adventure
at last ! Smoke has been so naughty. There
was a horrid German band, and he backed
nearly into Mr. Carat's shop, and this — this
gentleman was kind enough to help me. I
am so much obliged to you," she added,
turning to the stranger, who was in the act
of giving up the ponies and carriage to a
Sir John was not ungrateful, but, at the
same time, the fellow seemed rather officious.
Did he expect to be asked to dinner that he
was standing there? "My daughter is very
much obliged to you for your timely assis-
tance, sir," he said, with genuine British
58 A GAME OF CHANCE.
frigidity. '' May I ask to whom we have
the honour of being Indebted .^"
*' My name Is Otway," the stranger an-
swered ; and, having spoken, he slightly
raised his hat and walked away.
"The Liberal candidate, as I live!" cried
Sir John. " Now, what am I to do ?"
And Mr. Otway, who was but a few paces
off, heard the exclamation, and laughed softly
to himself " Liberal or Illiberal," he said,
'' I mean to see that sweet face again."
HIS enemy's daughter.
" I consider it a most unfortunate occur-
rence," said Sir John, ''most unfortunate in
every way." Again Dr. Murray, the Rector
of Little Centre Bridge, was the friend to
whom he confided his woes.
"To think," Sir John went on, "that of
all the men in the world he should be the one
to help Letty with her ponies. She declares
now that he saved her life. It is very unfor-
" That her life was saved ?" said Dr.
Murray, slyly. "Come, come, Erskine ; you
know you would rather lose your election
than your daughter."
"But there was no question of lives at all,"
6o A GAME OF CHANCE.
replied Sir John, who was rather matter-of-
fact. ''There was no danger; he says so
himself. It's all that ridiculous child. She
wants to make him out a hero."
'' Oh, you have seen him since it happened
'* I have just been to call upon him. What
a row there will be in the place when it gets
out, and it's sure to get out ; everything does
here. They never gave me peace or rest
until I promised to call and thank him." Sir
John had looked in at the Rectory on his way
back from the New Hotel. " Miss Lambton
was just as bad as Letty ; they said it would
look so pointed if I did not call. I don't care
a rap how it looks, but I do not want to
behave like a cad because the fellow has
set up for the county ; and now the
women want me to be civil to him, and
that means asking him to dinner ! What
do you say, Murray? Would you ask him
HIS enemy's daughter. 6 1
" I think you might venture ; he will
" I am not so sure of that. He said he
did not see why our opinions should keep us
from being friends, and that for his part he
was opposed in politics to some of his nearest
" He said that!" said Dr. Murray, opening
'' And plenty more of the same kind. I
wish I knew what to do ; the man is a gen-
tleman, but it will never do for me to get into
hot water with everyone because he kept
those confounded ponies from backing into
Carat's shop. Who are the Otways ? Do
you know .^"
''I do not think they are anyone in particu-
lar. I believe this man's father was a great
railway-carriage contractor or something of
that kind ; he did not leave as much money
behind him as people expected, but still he
did not die poor. The eldest son went into
62 A GAME OF CHANCE.
the army, I think, and this man is a barrister
in good practice."
'' Has he a wife?" asked Sir John. *' It
woukl make things easier if he was a married
'' How ?" asked the Rector. " You do not
want to be^ civil to her, do you ? Oh," as
an idea struck him, "you are thinking of
The next thing Dr. Murray heard about
the matter that so perplexed his friend and
neiofhbour at the Chase was contained in a
note from Sir John. It was really an invita-
tion to dinner, and he was asked to meet Mr.
Herbert Otway, the Liberal candidate for
Letty had carried the day, as she generally
did when her wishes and those of her father
clashed. She had made up her mind that, in
spite of political differences and the impend-
ing election, Otway was to be asked to dinner
and treated as a friend instead of an enemy,
HIS ENEMY S DAUGHTER. 63
and Sir John, after a short struggle, suc-
''You must come and see me through it,
Murray," he wrote. ''You know I dare not
ask any of my supporters in the county to
If he hoped to keep the matter secret he
was disappointed. In the broad day, of
course — for gentlemen do not make visits of
ceremony at night — Mr. Otway returned Sir
John's call the very day after it was made ;
and as he was turning in at the hospitable,
open gates, he was seen by no less a person
than Mrs. Dysart-Smith. She was on her
way to see little Miss Masham, a maiden
lady who lived all alone in a little cottage on
the London Road, outside the town.
"Quite true — perfectly true, I assure you,"
Mrs. Smith said, as she sipped her tea and
nodded at Miss Masham. " I saw him pass
through the gate and walk on towards the
house. Now, could he have been going to
64 A GAME OF CHANCE.
make a call, or was he going to see Sir John
on business ?"
** Suppose we send to the Chase and in-
quire ?" said Miss Masham, In a dry way
peculiar to her ; and It was a way that per-
plexed the gossips of Little Centre Bridge
very n'luch Indeed.
Mrs. Smith got very red. ''You are so
matter of fact, dear," she said.
Mr. Otway did not find Sir John at home,
but he boldly asked for Miss Lambton, and
was shown Into Aunt Louise's favourite little
sitting-room. Letty was with her aunt, and
the Radical candidate had, at first, only a
confused sense of a quantity of sweet-scented
spring flowers, of canaries In cages ; of a
pretty elderly woman, with soft white lace
about her head and face, and of the young
lady whose ponies he had taken In hand In
the street. He did not know what the ladles
said or what he replied.
Surely the girl was the prettiest creature
HIS enemy's daughter. 65
he had ever seen. Tall, but scarcely looking
her height, she was so finely proportioned,
with a singularly well-shaped head, set on a
beautiful full throat. She had sunny hair,
brilliant eyes, a matchless complexion, and a
smile that brought dimples in its train. Her-
bert Otway, who called himself a sensible
elderly man at eight-and-twenty, felt, as he
looked at her, that his head and his heart
were both in peril.
"And she is my enemy's daughter," he
said to himself. "At least, I suppose Sir
John is my enemy."
He spent an agreeable hour with the two
ladies, but it was Letty who took the chief
part in the entertainment. Miss Lambton,
always rather shy, was unusually so in the
presence of this interloper who had come to
oppose her brother-in-law, who was never
opposed by anyone except his daughter.
And now Letty was chattering away like a
bird, and Otway listened and followed her
VOL. I. F
66 A GAME OF CHANCE.
about to look at the hyacinths and the
canaries, and Aunt Louise thought how very
childish she was, and she was rather sur-
prised that a full-grown man could be so
attracted and pleased.
Had she known it, Otway was simply fas-
cinated. Never had he heard anything so
delicious as the soft babble that flowed from
Letty's pretty mouth. But, allured as he was,
he kept himself well in hand ; he never lost
sight of the fact that Sir John Erskine's
house was the last house in Little Centre
Bridge he ought to enter as a visitor, and
Sir John's daughter one of the few women in
the place with whom he ought to hold no
And so it happened that Sir John's fear of
getting into hot water with his constituents
was unfounded. Otway sent a courteous
refusal to the Invitation to dine at the Chase,
and when he called again he simply left his
card. No one knew what It cost him to
HIS enemy's daughter. 67
refuse and to turn away from the door, but
he knew It was the right thing to do, and so
it was done.
There had been some unprecedented delay
In the Issuing of the new writ for Stoneshire ;
In fact the announcement of the sittlnor
member's death was premature, but now he
was really dead, and the date of the nomina-
tion was fixed. Mr. Otway had been busy
with his canvass, and his followers were
certain of victory ; the only thing they had to
complain of was a certain lukewarmness In
their candidate. The news of his visit to the
Chase had got wind, and been duly magnified,
and he was reminded more often than he
liked that he was tampering with the enemy.
But although he had not been a second
time In Miss Lambton's sitting-room, he had
seen Letty very often. Indeed, It was quite
remarkable how often he contrived to come
across Fire and Smoke and their bewitching
mistress in the streets of the town. A word
68 A gamp: of chance.
or two might be exchanged ; perhaps only a
bow and a smile, and Otway would go about
his business with his mind full of the bright
eyes of his political enemy's daughter.
What would he have said had he known
the great project that was maturing in her
foolish little head ? She had actually made
up her mind to see Mr. Otway and to ask
him to retire from the contest for Stoneshire.
A more absurd idea could scarcely have
entered the girl's mind ; but there it was,
and she was determined to carry it out. She
saw that her father was worried and vexed,
and she thought if only Otway would give
up his canvass, all the trouble would be over.
But to carry out her project safely and in
secret was not so easy ; she could not talk to
Otway about it in the street, and he never
came to the Chase. Why should she not ask
him to come ? But then Aunt Louise, or
perhaps her father himself, would find out all
about it, and interfere with her plan and pre-
HIS enemy's daughter. 69
vent it from being carried out. Then she
thought of writing to him ; but she knew
that she could not express herself fluently on
paper, and she had, besides, a vague idea
that Otway might find it more difficult to
resist a personal appeal than a written one.
Suddenly it occurred to her, and how bit-
terly she regretted the impulse when it was
too late, to go to him. She had not the
faintest idea that It might be considered a
bold step for her to take, even by Otway
himself. She was Miss Erskine, and If she
wanted to see anyone — even the Liberal
candidate for Stoneshire — on business, why
should she not see him ? It was a mere
matter of business, after all. Accordingly,
the day but one before the nomination was to
take place, she ordered the ponies and drove
aw^ay through the town to the New Hotel,
which was close to the railway station. It
was not a part of Little Centre Bridge that she
knew very well, and it was crowded with coal
JO A GAME OF CHANCE.
trucks and waggons, and there were a great
many rough-looking and idle people about.
But Fire and Smoke were unusually well
behaved, and the people made way for the
dainty little carriage driven by the pretty
girl ; and, although she was not recognised
as she would have been in the High Street,
she created quite a sensation as she drove up
to the door of the New Hotel. She was not
nervous, but she felt a little confused when
she saw a group of men standing at the hotel
door, talking, laughing and smoking ; a sud-
den silence fell upon them as the carriage
stopped — that was satisfactory so far — and,
also, one or two of them took out their cigars,
but they all stared and looked surprised.
Letty felt that the sooner she was under
cover the better ; so beckoning to a man, who
looked like a helper in the stables, to stand
at the ponies' heads, she got out and went
into the hotel. But it was not empty and
quiet inside as she hoped ; very unlike indeed
HIS ENEMY S DAUGHTER. 7 1
to the hall of the Ersklne Arms. There were
more men standing about talking and smok-
ing ; and how they did stare ! She began to
feel uncomfortable. A waiter came up, and
nerving herself for the effort, for she felt it
was an effort now, Letty asked If Mr. Otway
was in the house. She could not help noticing
that as she spoke, the men looked at one
another, and one man actually laughed out-
right and tried to turn it off with a cough,
while a second asked, audibly, "Who is she,
does anyone know ?"
The waiter replied that Mr. Otway was
upstairs In his room, and, was It possible ? —
did he put his hand to his mouth to hide a
smile ? Letty flushed to the very roots of
her hair, and drew herself up. She w^as
afraid she had made a mistake.
"What name, miss .^" the waiter asked.
" Never mind my name," she said, " show
me up," and the next moment she was on the
stairs, and had left the staring men behind.
72 A GAME OF CHANCE.
It seemed to her that she went alonor miles
of corridors, but, at last, the waiter stopped
before a door, threw it open with a flourish
and announced, ''A lady for you, sir."
Letty passed into a sitting-room and found
herself face to face with a man she had never
He was seated at a table, writing, and a
greater contrast to Otway could scarcely be
imagined. He was, perhaps, strictly speak-
ing, a handsomer man, but his good looks
were of the barber's block type, and he was
dressed in a flashy suit of plaid garments, the
like of which Letty had never seen before.
She halted suddenly when she caught sight
of him ; the light from the window fell full
upon her ; the young man at the table got up
in a great hurry, and uttered the ejacula-
lation "By Jove," in a loud voice, as he
advanced to the unexpected visitor.
Letty had never looked prettier ; a little
black velvet hat threw a most becoming shade
HIS ENEMY S DAUGHTER. J 2>
Upon her flushed face, and the perfectly-made
dark-green ulster showed her beautiful figure
to the greatest advantage ; but the youth in
the plaid suit had not perception enough to
detect that, in spite of the equivocal aspect
of the situation, she was not of his own kind.
" Fine day, miss !" he said, with what he
meant to be a killing look.
*' Is Mr. Otway not here ? I want to see
him," Letty answered. She tried to speak in
a dignified and business-like manner, but her
voice trembled in spite of all her efforts and
she felt as if she was Qroino: to faint.
'' Oh, that's the litde Qrame, is it ?" the
young man said. "We want Otway, do
we ? Well, he's out for the day, but I'm
left in charge to see anyone who comes on
business, you know. But you don't want
to see him on business, I'm sure. An
appointment, and he forgot the day. What
a bloomino^ shame ! If it had been vours
truly, now ! Who shall I say called, miss ?"
74 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Letty gave him a look that ought to
have abashed him, but he was too obtuse
to notice It, and she was on the point of
saying, " Tell him Miss Ersklne called,"
when It dawned upon her, foolish as she
was and Ignorant of the ways of the world
that she ought not to give her name. In
turning the matter over In her mind, she
actually forgot her perplexity for a moment.
To mention her name would, of course, at
once reduce this Impertinent creature to his
proper level, but, then, It might also be
awkward for her father, or someone. She
knew now she was In a false position,
although she scarcely knew how false It was
and how full of danger.
But Otway's representative. If Indeed he
had that post, gave no time for reflection.
Here was a pretty girl In his chiefs room In
a public hotel ; she had called to see him
either by appointment or on chance — which
was It? But, perhaps — happy thonght—
HIS ENEMY S DAUGHTER. 75
Otway had made an appointment without
intending to keep it, and he had meant the
temporary occupant of his room to make the
most of the piece of good luck that had fallen
ill his way ; and no one had ever been able to
say of him that he had failed to make the
most of his opportunities. He pulled up his
collar ; took a look at himself in the mirror
over the mantelpiece, gave a smirk at the
reflection, and advanced to Letty, bent on
conquest. Almost before she realised that he
was so close to her, his arm was round her
waist, but what happened mtxt she scarcely
knew ; she struggled to escape with all her
mio^ht, but he would not let her oo ; then she
heard rapid steps coming along the corridor,
the door was dashed open, and Otway stood
on the threshold.
*' You here, Miss ?" and there he
stopped. Letty remembered afterwards that
he did not mention her name.
THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER.
But the sudden pause did not strike her at
the moment, for she all but fainted, and, as
she lay in a state of half-consciousness on the
sofa to which Otway half-led and half-sup-
ported her, she heard the sound of his voice
as he spoke angrily to the man who had
Insulted her. What the one said and the
other replied she did not know. He had
saved her by his timely arrival from further
contact with that vulgar, insolent creature ;
but she was not yet out of the scrape she
had got herself into by her thoughtlessness.
Presently she heard the door of the room
open and close ; she knew that she and
Otway were alone, and never In the course
THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER, ']^
of her short hfe had she felt so small or so
ashamed. Was the man laughing at her, or
pitying her, or did he think she had gone out
of her mind ? She glanced at him shyly ; he
looked very grave, or, as the silly girl put it,
cross. Now, no one was ever cross with her,
no matter how naughty she was ; and, al-
though in her heart she knew she had been
guilty of the most foolish act she had, up to
the present, been guilty of, she did not want
to be looked at as if she were a criminal. So
her red lips began to quiver ; her eyes brimmed
over with big tears, and Otway was instantly
vanquished ! He went to her, took her little
handkerchief from the breast pocket of her
ulster, wiped aw^ay the tears that were running
down her soft, round cheeks, and whispered,
" Oh, please, don't cry. It was all my
But of course she sobbed the more. " I
came — I came — to — to ask you not — not to
go on with — with the election ; and you
*jZ A GAME OF CHANCE.
weren't here, and that dreadful man
frightened me so."
Otway did not know what she meant by
wanting him not to go on with the election,
but he did know that he was desperately,
madly, in love with her, and that if he did
not keep a firm hand upon himself he must
betray what he felt.
" How am I to get away?" she whispered,
presently. " Are all those horrid men still in
the hall .^"
The question of getting her away was the
very one that was perplexing Otway at the
moment — or that would have perplexed him
If he had not been fighting a hard battle with
the passion that was struggling for utterance ;
and every glance from Letty's lovely, tear-
washed eyes made the victory less easy to
win. At last he resolutely turned his own
eyes from her face, and calmness came back
to him in a measure, as he began to walk up
and down the room.
THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER. 79
*' How did you come ?" he said, at last, and
his voice was as matter of fact as if he had
been addressing a constituent.
''I drove the ponies. Did you not see the
carriage at the door ?"
" No ; it wasn't there. Perhaps someone
was driving the ponies about. You brought
a groom, I suppose .^"
'' No ; I told a man in the street to hold
" Oh ; it's all right then. What would
you like to do ?" He was back again at her
side, but he had himself well in hand now,
and felt that he might venture upon the
luxury of looking at her. He knew she
ought to go at once ; that every moment she
stayed added to the difficulties of the situa-
tion, but he longed to detain her just a few
minutes more, in order that he might hear
why she had come. "You are a little shaken
still," he said. '* May I not get you a glass
•of wine ?"
8o A GAME OF CHANCE.
'' Oh, no, no, thank you ! I really must go
now ; but I want to tell you oh, don't
you want to know, Mr. Otway, why I came
to see you ?"
'' I want to know very much," he said,
smiling. '* It Is a great honour, and I cannot
tell you how grieved I am that I happened
to be out when you came. It was very, very
unfortunate, too, that young Brandon, who Is
acting as a sort of secretary to me just now,
chanced to be here ; but I made It all right
with him. He does not know who you are."
'' But he can find out. Everyone knows
the ponies !" cried Letty. " I told him I
came to see you on business ; but he did not
seem to understand. You know I came on
business, don't you, Mr. Otway ? What else
should I have come for ?"
" I am quite sure It was on business you
came," he answered, gravely.
" But you think I ought not to have come
even for that I" she cried, petulantly. ''I
THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER. 51
never thought of anything but my business.
There was nothing else to think of; at least
there was nothing until all those horrid men
stared at me In the hall !"
"And will you not tell me the business
now.'^" Otway said, quietly. " Sit down for
just five minutes and tell me all about It from
the beorlnnlno^. You want me to do some-
thing for you."
He made her sit down again, and placed
himself beside her, but he kept his eyes fixed
upon the buttons of her ulster, or upon the
little hands folded together on her lap ; any-
where except on her face. He could not
trust himself to look at the sweet rosy mouth
and the brilliant eyes.
" I came to ask you," she began, and she
heaved a great sigh as she spoke, " not to go
on with the election, if you wouldn't mind.
I am afraid It is a great deal to ask, but isn't
there some other place you could be a mem-
ber of parliament for ? A place that a per-
VOL. I. ^
82 A GAME OF CHANCE.
son like papa did not want to be a member
for, too ?"
''In short, you want your father to be the
member — you do not want me at all. I may
go back to London, and no one In Stoneshire
or Centre Bridge will care a brass button If
they never hear of me again !"
" I should care ever so much more than a
brass button," replied Letty, ''for I should
say to myself every day that you were the
kindest and most good-natured man I ever
"You would say that every day, regularly?"
said Otway. " I think you would get tired."
" No, I am sure I shouldn't."
"And you think that would repay me for
giving up the election ?" he went on. " I am
afraid I should want something more — from
you." For half a second he laid his fingers
lightly on the little, gloved hand, and looked
for about the same time Into her eyes, tiers
did not fall.
THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IX DANGER. S^
'' From me?" she repeated. " But I have
nothing of my own to give you, except the
" I do not want the ponies, thank you," he
said. " Neither can I promise all at once to
give up the election. I do not care so very
much about it myself, but 1 have promised
other people who have been working for me,
" But they would all vote for papa if you
were gone," said Letty. "And then you
know," she added, *'you could be such good
friends with all of us at the Chase, if you
were not the Liberal candidate ; you could
come and see the canaries again, and I would
sing for you, and "
"You would?" cried Otway. ''Oh, Miss
Erskine— Letty Hallo! What is all
this going on outside ?"
The window of the room overlooked the
street. Otway went to it and glanced out for
a moment, half-relieved and half-vexed at
84 A GAME OF CHANCE.
the sudden Interruption. Another second
and words Impossible to recall, and, under
the circumstances, dishonourable to utter,
would have fallen from him.
When he came back to her, Otway was
looking very grave. " Your father has just
ridden up," he said, " and recognised the
Something in the speaker's tone struck the
girl. " Is he — Is he angry ?" she said.
" What had I better do ?"
" He may be surprised ; there Is nothing
to make him angry. Shall I "
Before the sentence was finished. Sir
John's voice was heard In the corridor, and
it seemed as If he were speaking loudly with
a purpose. '* I know Miss Erskine is ex-
pecting me," they heard him say, "what
number Is it ?"
The next moment he was In the room, and
the door was shut behind him. His face
was livid with passion, and his eyes were
THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE IN DANGER. 85
ablaze. But it was not at his face Letty
looked. She saw only the riding -whip so
firmly grasped in his right hand.
" Papa ! papa !" she cried, and caught hold
of his arrn.
But he pushed her from him. "You —
you infernal scoundrel !" he exclaimed. Be-
fore Otway was aware of his intention, Sir
John had him by the collar, and, if the up-
raised arm had not been deftly caught by the
young man, a stinging cut from the whip
would have fallen on him between the
" If you were not her father," he said, as
he wrenched himself free, " I'd knock you
down where you stand."
*' I KNOW I made a fool of myself," said Sir
John, " but what would you have a man do
when he finds his daughter tete-a-tete with a
fellow he knows nothing about ? I am sure
you w^ould have horse-whipped him."
'' Not until I had asked him a question or
two," said the Rector.
To Dr. Murray, as usual, Sir John had
confided his troubles ; they were rather
serious on this occasion, and poor Sir John
was walking up and down the Rector's study
with a rueful expression on his ruddy face.
" I suppose it is all over the place," he said
" Yes ; I am afraid there is a good deal of
THE NOMINATION. ^J
gossip, as usual, and many different versions
of the affair. One is that you belaboured
him to such an extent that he was carried
fainting to bed ; another, that you and he
fought it out there and then, and that you
are unpresentable with a black eye ; a third,
that you found him at the railway station
about to elope with Letty."
"Oh, confound it; that is the worst of
all !" cried Sir John.
"And that you kicked him from one end
of the platform to the other."
Sir John threw up his hands. "What is
to be done ?" he said.
" I think you and Letty and Mr. Otway
had better be seen together in public as soon
as possible. To-morrow is the nomination ;
take her with you, and shake hands with
Otway before everyone."
" But what will our side say if they see me
fraternising with the Liberal candidate .^"
" Very true," said the Rector. " And it is
SS A GAME OF CHANCE.
the gossips here we want to silence. In all
probability the Great Centre Bridge people
will not hear of the affair. Suppose you just
take no notice. What matter what people
'• But I am afraid poor Letty will be talked
'* She must live it down, too. And now,
would you mind telling me what she went to
Otway's rooms for ?"
" She went to ask him, if you please, to
resign — to give up the election and allow
me to have a walk-over. Did you ever hear
of such a thing ? But he is a gentleman,
Murray, and no mistake about it. He
behaved so well ; made me understand, as
soon as I had the sense to listen, how it all
came about — -and if Letty had been the
Princess Royal he could not have been more
deferential — more anxious to smooth over her
absurd indiscretion. By Jove," and Sir John
broke into a little nervous laugh, " I am
THE NOMINATION. 89
afraid the fellow has fallen In love with the
''Oh, never mind that," said the Rector,
*'as long as she does not take a fancy to
''But you never can tell ; girls are so
queer. She can't but see the way he looks
at her. It is very different from the way he
looks at me."
" I dare say," said the Rector.
"And isn't it an odd thing ?" Sir John went
on, "I told you Jack had been writing a
great deal lately about some Gordons he
knows out there in India. Miss Gordon
went out in the Great Pyramid, under the
care of Jack's Colonel's wife, and now he has
come across her again. Letty and Miss
Lambton say they think he is in love with
this Miss Gordon, but I think not. He
knows I want him to come home and marry
Lucy Knollys by and by. Well, where was
I ? You know Otway's name was mentioned
90 A GAME OF CHANCE.
a long time ago as a possible candidate If
poor old Mllner died, and I told Jack about
him, of course. Now he writes word that
Otway's elder brother married the half-sister
of this Amy Gordon, and I should like to
ask him about them. If only we were friendly
enough. Jack says Colonel Gordon told him
that Herbert Otway — that's our man — was-
was one of the best fellows he ever met."
" All the same, I wish he had gone to
Great Centre Bridge Instead of settling him-
self here," said the Rector.
''I suppose, then, the best thing I can do
is to show myself with Letty." Sir John said,
as he took up his hat. " She Is so ashamed,
poor child, that I cannot scold her ; and the
best of It Is," he added, slyly, "she fancies
our friend Otway thinks she Is a silly little
fool, and I would not undeceive her for the
Dr. ]\Iurray had said truly enough that
half-a-dozen versions of the affair at the hotel
THE NOMINATION. 9 1
were current in the little town. As a matter
of fact, it had ended peacefully. Sir John,
his bit of bluster over, listened to his
daughter's explanation ; he and Otway shook
hands, and the latter had the pleasure of
handing Miss Erskine into her little carriage.
She scarcely looked at him. however ; she
was grateful to him for having helped her to
explain everything to her father, but she did
not want to see him again. Sir John had
some difficulty in persuading her to accom-
pany him and Miss Lambton to Great Centre
Bridge on the day of the nomination. It
was very galling to her to be present, for, of
course, if Otway had retired from the contest^
the fact would have been known by that time,
and so she had beo^Q^ed in vain.
Still she was but young, and her spirits
rose and her face erew briofht as usual, as
they all drove up to the town hall, and were
greeted with loud cheers by their friends and
adherents. The dappled greys had the Con-
92 A GAME OF CHANCE.
servatlve colours streaming from their heads ;
the coachman and footman wore big rosettes,
and Aunt Louise and Letty were suitably
decorated. There was such a dense crowd
in the wide square or market-place before the
town hall that the carriage had some difficulty
in drawing up. A platform had been erected
for the speakers, with a flight of steps at
either end, and rival bands were stationed at
■opposite sides of the square. The players
had ranged themselves and their music stands
round poles, from which flags showing the
party colours floated in the wind.
A group of men stood on the steps of the
entrance to the town hall under an awning,
and amongst them Letty recognised Otway.
She would not have been a woman had she
not been struck by the contrast he presented
to some of his companions. For one thing
he was remarkably well-dressed ; not in the
dark tweed suit and deer-stalker hat in which
he appeared at Little Centre Bridge, but in
THE NOMINATION. 93
the well-made frock coat and tall hat which
are considered indispensable for a man on
ceremonious occasions. The hat was taken
right off the dark curly head of the good-
looking Liberal candidate, as soon as he saw
the carriage from the Chase, and he stood
bare-headed as Sir John helped the ladies to
Sir John knew nearly all the men who
were on the steps. They were political foes,
to be sure, but, for all that, he shook hands
right and left, and in the most marked
and ostentatious manner with his opponent.
When the action was noticed by the crowd
it was received with mingled cheers and
hisses, and the Conservative band struck up
"See the Conquering Hero."
" Premature that, eh ?" said Sir John,
laughing, and addressing no one in par-
Letty did not look at Otway. Miss
Lambton gave him a timid little bow, and
94 A GAME OF CHANCE.
as he put on his hat again and watched the
girl walking away with her father he was
foolish enough to feel bitterly disappointed.
There were not many ladies present ; the
Avife of Otway's proposer and some young
girls belonging to the seconder were the only
women on the Liberal side of the platform,
but a little group of county ladies surrounded
Miss Lambton and Letty. It was some time
before the business of the day began. Men
came up on the platform and went down
again ; the bands played, the crowd jeered
or cheered as friends or opponents were seen
passing to and fro, there was some rough
horseplay, and cries of " Bonnet him," '' Turn
him out," and every fresh outburst of cheers
or groans was louder and less good-humoured
than the last. By the time the candidates
and their friends appeared in front of the
platform the mob had become decidedly rest-
less and ripe for mischief.
The preliminaries were, however, gone
THE NOMINATION. 95
through without any serious interruption
from below, but, when Sir John came forward
to make his speech, and had just cleared his
throat and uttered the words " Friends and
electors of ," a well-directed rotten Qgg
struck him on the cheek and cut him short.
And then a curious thing happened. Mr.
Otway rose, and, leaning over the front of
the platform, called out, *' Don't let us have
any more of that, if you please." But even
as he said the words he was obliged to duck
his head to avoid a dead cat.
He could not account for the impulse that
made him look at Letty Erskine as the un-
savoury missile fell at his feet. Her face was
all aoflow with excitement, and her lovelv
eyes were fixed on him. What was it that
eaeer look was saving ? He fancied she was
mutely reproaching him for not having, as
she had asked, retired from the contest. He
glanced at her again, but her eyes were turned
96 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Sir John spoke for half-an-hour, but the
fates were against him, and scarcely a word
he said could be heard ; his friends in the
crowd were evidently in a minority. Con-
fident of a better reception, and half-angry
that it should be accorded to him, Otway
came forward. The uproar was at its height,
but curiosity had the effect of creating
silence for a little while. It did not last long;
something in the speaker's manner caused the
first note of dissatisfaction, and he was
assailed with rude cries of '' Shut up," '' Who
are you ?" and such like ; for, instead of
of expounding his political views, he began
by attacking his own friends for their want of
courtesy and fair play towards the rival"
His proposer at last whispered, ''What
the are you about, man ? They won't
stand being lectured."
But Otway's blood was up, or some other
impulse may have moved him, for he went
THE NOMINATION. 97
on In the same strain. But the patience of
his friends was soon exhausted, and he was
silenced by a perfect storm of hisses and cat-
calls, while rotten eggs fairly rained on the
Otway's friends and his own got round Sir
John to Implore him to demand a hearing for
his opponent, and he at once came forward
and tried to make himself heard ; but his
appearance was the signal for a sudden turn
of the tide. A shout of execration greeted
him, and the eggs flew faster than before.
Some roughs from Little Centre Bridge, who
had more than once been brought up before
Sir John In his capacity as a magistrate, had
pushed themselves to the front, and it was
from them the foulest language came. But
he never changed countenance until a bigger
bully than the rest called out, "What was
Miss Letty doing In the New Hotel with
Billy Brandon ? Just tell us that, Sir John,
will ye ?"
VOL. I. H
98 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Otway gave one look round to see if Letty
had heard ; her face was very white now, and
she had risen as if to go to her father.
Catching her eyes for a moment, the young
man waved her back ; then, putting his hands
on the bar that formed the top of the raihng
in front of the platform, he vaulted over into
the roadway below, and just as the ruffian
was about to repeat his insulting question,
Otway knocked him down with one well-
Before the yelling crowd quite realised
what had happened, friends and opponents
together rushed from the platform to Otway's
assistance, and not a moment too soon !
Maddened by the fall of their comrade, the
roughs closed in upon him, and attack and
defence became general. Some hard knocks
had been given and received, when a strong
body of police and military came upon the
scene, and a regular stampede ensued.
When it was all over, and one or two
THE NOMINATION. 99
arrests had been made, Otway was found
leaning against the door of the hall with
blood flowing from a cut upon his temple and
his right arm hanging by his side.
*' I am afraid It Is badly broken," he said,
and so It was.
THE TALK OF THE TOWN.
The local gossip caused by the numerous
versions in circulation about Letty Erskine's
visit to Otway at the New Hotel was extin-
guished as effectually as a lighted candle is
put out by a sudden puff of wind, when the
events of the nomination day in Great Centre
Bridge became known. There was no need
for exaggeration in this instance ; what had
actually taken place was bad enough. But
even the news of the rioting and the free
fight, which brought the business to an
abrupt close, paled before the amazing fact
that Otway, the Liberal candidate, with his
head cut and bleeding and his arm badly
broken in two places, was taken, first to the
THE TALK OF THE TOWN. lOI
house of Dr. INIannering, Sir John Ersklne's
own medical attendant In Great Centre
Bridge, where his wounds w^ere dressed and
his bones set, and then. Sir John's carriage
being still used for the purpose, conveyed
to the Chase, and established there with a
professional nurse, while Miss Lambton and
her niece went home in a hired fly. It was
true that Otway had been badly hurt while
defending Sir John from the roughs, but still,
was it any wonder people looked at one
another and asked, " What next ?"
So much was known to everyone, but no
one knew how Otway had protested against
the arrangement ; vehemently at first, but
more feebly as Sir John insisted. He gave
in at last, not because he felt less strongly,
but his physical strength deserted him and
he was Incapable of continuing the struggle
when he was at length helped Into the car-
riage with his bandages and splints In order.
The Chase was the last house he ought to
I02 A GAME OF CHANCE.
have entered under the circumstances ; he
was Sir John's poHtical opponent ; he was in
love with Sir John's daughter, and honour
and honesty ahke forbade him to take up his
abode under Sir John's roof. And yet, there
was a certain amount of satisfaction in the
knowledge that he was all but helpless in the
matter ; he had entered his protest, and had
been silenced ; so if anything happened, Sir
John must take the consequences. But
nothing would happen ; he was bound in
honour not to make love to Miss Erskine.
But as he lay feverish and restless in the
pretty bedroom which, with a sitting-room
attached, had been given up for his sole use,
he took all at once a great resolve. It was
not yet too late to do as she had asked him,
and withdraw from the contest for Stoneshire.
It was quite possible that he was not treating
his friends very well by retiring at the last
moment, but he could very well bear their
anger and ill-will. So he sent for Sir John,
THE TALK OF THE TOWN. IO3
who would not listen to him at first ; but
Otway had so thoroughly made up his mind
that he had to give in. Then letters, tele-
grams and messages passed between the
Chase and the Liberal committee rooms in
Great Centre Bridge, there was much angry
remonstrance, and a few uncomplimentary
expletives were directed against the man who
had thus played fast and loose with his party,
but Otway had his way ; he was determined
to withdraw from the contest, and withdraw
he did on the very eve of the election.
There was no time to hnd another candidate,
and Sir John Erskine was returned without
Lying there on his sick bed, for excitement
and worrv made him feverish and li^ht-headed
for some days, Otway knew nothing of the
storm of indio^nation his conduct had raised.
The comments passed upon him in the
Liberal papers were the reverse of compli-
mentary, and it was pretty plainly hinted that
I04 A GAME OF CHANCE.
''petticoat influence" had been at work. One
very scurrilous "leader" in the Centre Bridge
Banner of Freedom said openly that " no
bribery was as potent as that practised by a
pair of bright eyes, and no corruption more
demoralising than the smile of rosy lips." A
kind friend sent a copy of the paper with the
above passage underlined to Sir John, but he
put it into the fire, and carefully avoided the
subject with Letty, who was under the im-
pression that Otway had been obliged to
resign on account of his broken arm.
About a fortnight after the memorable
nomination day, Mrs. Dysart-Smith gave
one of her select luncheon parties, and Dr.
Murray was, as usual, one of the guests.
Her only daughter. Miss Ethel Dysart-
Smith, had been for some time past designed
by her mother for the post of mistress of the
pretty Rectory, but, for some unaccountable
reason. Dr. Murray did not propose to the
young lady, and he was, moreover, much too
THE TALK OF THE TO\YN. I05
attentive to Mrs. Smith's English governess,
Mary Hamilton, in whom neither the mother
nor the daughter could see anything to
admire. She had a sweet oval face, lovely
soft brown eyes, and a figure that w^as simply
the perfection of symmetry and grace. But
it was not to be borne that the Rector's eyes
should have rested on her with admiration,
especially when Ethel was present.
Miss Hamilton never appeared at the
luncheon parties, but she occasionally spent a
leisure afternoon with the kindly maiden lady
Miss Masham, of whom mention has already
been made, and it was strange how very often
Dr. Murray happened to drop in to tea
when the young lady was there. As he was
on his way to this special luncheon, Dr.
Murray happened to meet Miss Hamilton on
her way to the post. A few words only
were exchanged but they w^ere enough to
bring a pretty colour into the too pale
face, and to make Mary very absent indeed
I06 A GAME OF CHANCE.
about the number of postage-stamps she
'' Now, Dr. Murray," said Mrs. Dysart-
Smith, as soon as she saw that her guests
were beginning to enjoy their luncheon,
" what Is the latest news from the Chase?
Is that man ever going to get well and take
himself off? I never knew a broken arm so
hard to mend before."
"It was a bad compound fracture," said
Dr. Sumner. " At least, so I understood.
Personally, I know nothing about the case."
" I met Dr. Mannering yesterday," said
Mrs. Verity — her husband, the lawyer, was
not present — "and he told me Mr. Otway
was recovering very fast now ; he was moved
into a sitting-room yesterday."
"Yes; I called at the Chase yesterday,"
said Mrs. Sumner, "and It was some time
before Miss Lambton came In. Miss Letty
told me she was in Mr. Otway's room, seeing
that everything was comfortable for him."
THE TALK OF THE TOWN. lO/
" Letty was not overseeing his comfort,
too, then ?" said Mrs. Dysart-Smlth.
" Oh, dear, no ; she has not seen him since
the accident, she says. She was telhng me
about her brother In India, and, from what I
can gather, he Is very far gone about some
young lady out there. I forget her name ;
Amy something. What will Sir John say If
he does not come home and marry Lucy
Knollys ? Young John gave a very amusing
account of some private theatricals they had
at some place, and It seems this young lady's
maid, I forget her name too, took a principal
part and played so extremely well that
bouquets were thrown to her and everyone
was delighted. Depend upon it, the next
news will be that young John Is going to
marry this Miss Amy— Gordon. That Is the
Dr. Murray was eating his luncheon
silently. He had already heard the Indian
news from Sir John.
I08 A GAME OF CHANCE.
"Have you seen ^Ir. Otway, doctor?"
Mrs. Dysart-Smlth addressed him direcdy
again. "And do you think he is in love
with Letty ?"
" I cannot presume to say," the doctor
answered. " He has not confided in me."
"If there is nothing between them it is
most extraordinary. Why did she go to his
rooms, and why is Sir John so civil to him ?"
said Mrs. \^erity. "Depend upon it, there is
more in it than meets the eye. You know
they say she used to meet him in the park
every evening, and he used to send a young
man he employed as secretary with notes and
" I am quite sure you are mistaken, Mrs.
Verity," said Dr. Murray. " Miss Erskine
is not the sort of girl to do things of that
kind ; and, besides, I happen to know that
she went to the hotel to ask Mr. Otway to
give up the election. It was a foolish thing
to do, but there w^as no harm in it."
THE TALK OF THE TOV.W. IO9
"He need never think of setting up for
Stoneshire again," said Dr. Sumner.
"And I think." said Mrs. Smith, laughing,
"the best thing Sir John can do is to let
Letty marry him as soon as he is well. I
am sorry to say a great many things are
being said of her that would grieve me very
much if they were said of ??iy daughter.
Not that I believe them, of course, but
still Dr. Murray, you are not touching
your favourite claret. I never give that
wine to anyone but you. It is Ethel's pet
brand, you must know, but I always say,
' Xo, my dear, we must keep that wine for
Dr. Murray.' By the way, my dear Ethel,
do not fororet to show the Rector that
exquisite design you have for an altar
That same afternoon, at the Chase, Otway.
with his arm in a sling, was resting in an
easy chair that kind Miss Lambton had
arranged for him. close to a window which
no A GAME OF CHANCE.
commanded a wide view of the park and
overlooked, besides, the Ladies' Garden, as it
was called. It was bright now with spring
flowers, and once that day he had seen Letty
herself, the sweetest flower of all, in his eyes,
racing about over the grass, with her fox-
terrier, Orion, in full chase. He had been
introduced to that wonderful dog on the
occasion of his visit of ceremony, and he
felt inclined to envy the little animal on that
bright spring day. Once or twice he fancied,
but he could not be sure, that the girl looked
towards the window of his room, but when
he got up and placed himself at it in the
hope that she would wave him a greeting,
he was disappointed ; she did not look up
The day wore on ; he read until he was
weary, and then, in a somewhat fretful and
impatient mood, he threw himself on the
couch to try and doze away the rest of
the long afternoon, but presently the door
THE TALK OF THE TOWN. I I I
opened and Miss Lambton came in. She
was followed by a servant who carried a tea
tray, and after the servant who should trot
in, with his nose in the air, but the handsome
Otway jumped up, his head at once in a
whirl, and his curly locks decidedly untidy.
But he never thought of his hair, he was
filled with a delightful hope. Was she
coming ? Was he to see her again ; to touch
her hand ; to look into her face ? Yes, he
was. Orion rushed back to the door to meet
her, and she came in without a sign of flurry
or excitement in her manner ; she wore a
bewitchino: tea-Q^own of some soft cream-
coloured stuff, trimmed with ribbons of red-
dish brown and pale apricot, and she carried
" Letty and I are going to have tea with
you, Mr. Otway, if you don't mind," said
*' And Orion too, aunt. Don't forget
J 12 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Orion, please," said Letty's clear, unem-
barrassed voice. " How do you do, Mr.
Otway .^" she added and gave him her hand.
Orion, the fox-terrier, did good service that
afternoon ; it was so easy to steer clear of
such a disagreeable topic as the election, and
to become chatty and friendly over his good
looks and accomplishments ; not that he had
many accomplishments, for he was much
too petted, and was not forced to spend too
much time over his lessons, but his young
mistress made the most of what he could do.
His rdpertoire consisted of a few very common
tricks, and he did them very badly, but
Otway was prepared to swear, if necessary,
that he had never seen such a clever dog
Letty was not in the least imposed upon,
VOL. I. I
114 ^ GAME OF CHANCE.
but she allowed the invalid to believe that she
accepted his lavish praises of her pet In good
faith. She could not help feeling very sorry
for the poor fellow who was so pale and
gaunt, but rather picturesque, too, she
thought, with his arm In a sling. Letty felt
it was her duty to be kind to this man who
had defended her father so bravely, and as
she always did her duty fairly well when it
did not Interfere with her pleasure, she was
very kind to him that afternoon. In her way,
but It was a childish and provoking way.
Did Otway find any fault with it ? Not he,
indeed ; he was only too happy to be taken
any kind of notice of by the girl who had
never, for one moment, been out of his
thoughts for the last month or more.
He did not care whether she talked sense
or nonsense — and it was fortunate he was not
particular, for It must be confessed she gave
him plenty of the latter — as long as he could
look at her and watch the dimples coming
AN ADVENTURE. T I 5
and going, and hear the ripple of her frank,
merry laugh, and catch the mischievous
glance of her lovely eyes.
No one who had ever seen Herbert Otway
at his work would have recognised him
that afternoon. Love had transformed him
more than pain and illness. Even his most
intimate friends called him cold and impas-
sive ; a man not easily^mcved, and not given
to express or even to feel enthusiasm. And
yet now he was the abject slave of a
girl of eighteen ; enthusiastic enough in all
conscience about her beauty ; hanging on
her words ; in the seventh heaven of delight
when she gave him a kind look, and absurdly
jealous when she lavished attentions and
caresses on her dog.
And was Miss Letty blind to all this ; was
she ignorant of the damage she had done ?
By no means ; she saw it all only too dis-
tinctly, and exulted over it as any spoiled girl
of her age would have done. But she was not
Il6 A GAME OF CHANCE.
disposed to fall In love In her turn, although
she liked Otway, and said he was a "delight-
ful man " for having given up the election ;
but then he could not have gone on with It
with a broken arm, and If he had gone on
she supposed, he could not have stayed at the
Chase until he was well again, so everything
had turned out for the best. That was the
way she reasoned.
But It was absurd of him, when everything
had ended so nicely, to look so lackadaisical
before her, and to stammer and stutter when
he could talk so well, and to gaze at her as If
he were never to see her again ; and indeed,
had he but known It, Otway was not taking
the right way to Impress Letty, and to touch
her heart. She did not want a slave, she
wanted a master ; and a little neglect and In-
difference would have won her more effectu-
ally than all his deference of speech and
ill-suppressed devotion of manner.
" But it was all very nice," Letty said to
AN ADVENTURE. I 1 7
herself, as she laughed in secret over Otway's
words and looks ; and as he was " making
such a goose of himself" he must submit to
be teased. By and by, when he got back to
London, he would "get over it."
But, as the days wore on and the afternoon
tea was repeated in Otway's room until he
was able to come downstairs to the pretty
boudoir, with the flowers and the canaries,
Letty began to think that, when he was back
in London, she should miss her captive — the
first who had fallen to her bow and spear !
Every day she liked him better, and every
day she wished he would pluck up a spirit
and not allow her to turn him round her
finger, as she was in the habit of doing.
'' I believe I should fall desperately in love
if I were but a little afraid of him," she said
to herself many times, "but I cannot care
much for a man who never finds fault with
anything I say or do."
But there was no one to ofive him a hint,
Il8 A GAME OF CHANCE.
SO he went on day after day metaphorically
prostrating himself before her, and enjoying,
with the keen zest of hunger, the few crumbs
of kindness she threw him now and then.
When he was quite recovered, she walked
with him In the park and drove him about In
the pony carriage ; but, although his oppor-
tunities were legion, he never dared to speak
openly of his devotion. He saw, but too
plainly, that she did not love him as he
wanted to be loved. "Would it ever come?"
he wondered. "Should he ever have the
happiness of seeing her shy and subdued In
his presence ? Would those lovely, saucy
eyes ever droop before his, and the laughing
lips be still ?"
He was quite well now, and he had no
excuse for lingering on In the country, but
still he stayed. Sir John had taken his seat
in the House, and had then paired with a
member on the other side until after Easter,
which fell rather late that year. When Par-
AN ADVENTURE. II9
liament re-assembled after the recess, It was
arranged that Letty and Miss Lambton were
to go to town for a few weeks.
At the beginning of April, Otway was
obliged to tear himself away, but to his great
satisfaction and delight, hospitable Sir John
Invited him down to spend Easter at the
Chase. He showed his delight In the eager-
ness of his acceptance, and he did not guess
that the very slightest show of reluctance or
hesitation on his part would have Increased
tenfold Letty's appreciation of his promised
As It was she simply put up her lip dis-
dainfully as she told Orion that the man who
thought him such a very clever dog was
coming again In a fortnight, and that he
ought to learn a new trick.
But when he was gone she missed him
sadly ; there was no one now to fetch and
carry for her, and to rush about hither and
thither to gratify all her whims and fancies.
I20 A GAME OF CHANCE.
No one except her father — and he did not
count — to look admiringly at her when she
appeared In a new gown or hat, and above
all, there was no one to listen to all her silly
chatter as deferentially as if she were uttering
choice words of wisdom.
During the fortnight he was away several
large packets of new music arrived from
town addressed to Miss Ersklne ; also an
extremely pretty, but very unsuitable, collar
for Orion. Then came a thick letter for
Miss Lambton to thank her and Sir John
for their great, their never-to-be-forgotten
and wholly undeserved kindness to the
writer. He could say with truth that the
very happiest hours of his life had been spent
at the Chase, and the pleasure with which
he was looking forward to his return visit at
Easter was too great for words, but he con-
trived to spend a great many upon it, never-
theless. The chief part of the letter, how-
ever, was taken up with messages to Letty —
AN ADVENTURE. I 2 I
" Pray tell Miss Erskine that I have ordered
the song she wished for," or " Miss Erskine
may depend upon me to find the kind of
forehead band and rosettes she is anxious to
get for Eire and Smoke, if they are to be had
in London," or '' Let Miss Erskine know
that I have got the riding-whip she was good
enough to commission me to procure for
" I w^onder how he is going to behave this
time ?" she said, as she buttoned herself into
a most becoming new, tailor-made gown, and
put on an equally becoming little hat, on the
day Otway was expected. AVhen she was
dressed she called Orion to accompany her
and started to take the short cut across the
park which led to the railway station. She
had given Otway an indefinite promise — or,
more truly, a conditional one — that on the day
of his return for his Easter visit, she and
Orion would meet him at a certain stile on
the outskirts of the park well known to both
122 A GAME OF CHANCE.
of them, and walk back with him to the
house ; but he was not to be disappointed,
she explained, If she was not at the stile, for
she might change her mind, or forget all
about It. When she said she might forget,
Otway looked so dejected and prayed so hard
that he might be honoured by her company
that she laughed In his face, and said he had
done nothing to deserve the honour ; but
when he went on to confess his unworthiness
she lost all patience, and flippantly told him
not to expect her until he saw her.
And now, though she was actually on her
way to the trysting-place, she had almost
made up her mind to turn back before the
train arrived. '' But if he looks too pleased
to see me," she said to herself, '' I can
revenge myself by snubbing him all the
She had a book with her, and when she
came within sight of the stile she sat down
on the stump of a tree to wait, for the train
AN ADVENTURE. I 23
was not due for nearly half-an-hour. She
was in the shelter of a small but thick copse
of beechwood, and in the distance she could
see the signal posts on the railway line, and
hear now and then the whistle of a local
Orion was very happy sniffing about for
rabbits, and Letty. with her open book on
her lap, leaned against a tree, and began to
devise some new modes of torment for the
expected guest. The only thing, she made
up her mind, that she would not give him
was encouragement. She had very early
been impressed with the idea by good Miss
Lambton that it was dishonourable for a
woman to lead on a man to make a declara-
tion of love and then to reject him. But
still, in spite of her excellent resolution,
Letty was longing to hear what he would
say and to see how he would look, if he were
to ask her to marry him.
'' He would spoil me dreadfully if I said
124 ^"^ GAME OF CHANCE.
■"yes ;' I know he would," she thought, " and
I am sure, although It would be very nice, It
would be very bad for me always to have my
own way. Mrs. Herbert Otway — Letty
Otway — they sound rather pretty, but I do
not think I want to be married just yet. Be
quiet, Orion ! What Is It, good doggie ?"
Orion was barking furiously, and presently,
to Letty's surprise, a man emerged from a
side path among the trees and came towards
her. She rose at once, called the dog to
her side, and stood looking at the Intruder.
Where had she seen that face before, and
that plaid suit, and scarlet necktie? The
face of the wearer was scarlet too, and that
puzzled her, for the person of whom he re-
minded her had not had that flaming visage.
His hat was worn raklshly and his gait was
a little unsteady. Yes ; there was no doubt
about It, It was unsteady, and as It suddenly
flashed across her where she had seen him
before, she knew that he was tipsy, and that
AN ADVENTURE. I 25
his condition made the difference in his
appearance. He was the man who was in
Otway's room at the New Hotel — the man
called Brandon, who had so utterly mistaken
the object of her visit to the young and good-
looking Liberal candidate.
Brandon was not very tipsy, for he spoke
quite distinctly, but she did not like his look
or his manner.
''Morning, miss," he said familiarly, as he
made a bungling effort to take off his hat.
" Hope I see you well, miss. You look
uncommon fit, I must say."
Letty was silent for a moment, then she
said, in a freezing voice, " Perhaps you are
not aware that you are trespassing. People
are not allowed to walk here."
" Indeed ! Beg pardon, miss, but I have
an object ; I am not trespassing. I was on
my way to the house to see you, miss, when
I caught sight of you and the dawg " — he
drawled out the word in true Cockney fashion
126 A GAME OF CHANCE.
— "and I followed to have a word with you
'' I cannot speak to you," said Letty. ''If
you have any business you should go to Sir
He was close beside her by that time, so
close that she had to move a step backwards
to avoid contact with him. He moved on,
too. " I'm down on my luck, miss, if you
know what that is," he went on. " I didn't
know who you was that day at the hotel, or
I'd have been less free and easy, but you
don't bear malice, I hope ; and, seeing you
there alone, I thought you was fair game for
a lark, if you'll excuse me."
Letty was crimson with anger and mortifi-
cation, and she tried to walk quickly on in the
direction of the house, but Brandon contrived
to keep in her path. " I used to do some
writing for Mr. Otway," he continued, '' but
he sent me to the right about after that day,
with a tenner in my pocket, which I took to
AX ADVENTURE. I 27
mean. * Hold your tongue about the young
lady,' and the half- tipsy creature put his
finger to his nose, and, to Letty's horror and
disgust, winked at her. " And never a word
said I, honour bright, as long as the coin
" What is your business with me ?'' inter-
rupted Letty, haughtily. " I do not believe
you have any."
** Oh, yes, I have," he said ; " maybe you
don't know how folks are talking of you and
that swell chap from London. They say you
bought the election for your father, pretty
dear, but that if the old gent will only come
down with a lot of cash, you'll be Mrs. Otway
safe enough, by and by !"
Now, the greater part of this speech was
unintelligible to Letiy, but nevertheless, it
was offensive in the highest degree. " How
dare you speak to me in that way ?"' she said,
stamping her foot.
*' I can silence ever\* tongue in the place.
128 A GAME OF CHANCE.
and I will, too," Brandon went on, quickly,
''if you'll give me five sovs. I'm cleaned
out, that's the truth. I want to get back to
London, too, and I haven't the price of a
ticket. Just five, miss, and not a word more
about anything. I can square everyone for
that, and get to town besides."
Letty put her hand into her pocket and
took out her purse ; she had plenty of money,
and five sovereigns was a small price, she
thought, to pay for silencing the slanderers,
and she never suspected that Brandon had
made up the tale. She had turned and was
walking at a good pace back to the house ;
Brandon was close beside her, talking eagerly
as he walked. She took the pieces of gold
from her purse, and, without turning her
head, placed them in his eager hand and
hastened on ; but the sound of hurrying foot-
steps and a sudden scuffle made her pause
and look round, to see Otway in full chase
after the frying figure of Brandon.
AN ADVENTURE. I 29
The race was a short one ; Brandon was
not sober enough to keep up the pace, and
presently Letty saw him being dragged to
her by his captor, and frightened and vexed
though she was, she all but laughed out at
the comical figure he cut, with his hat on one
side and his gaudy necktie pulled awry by
Otway's grasp upon his collar.
" I saw Miss Erskine give you money,
you miserable cur!" cried Otway. "How
dare you speak to her, sir ? Give it up
instantly or I'll hand you over to the
Brandon sullenly held out his hand with
the money in it to Letty. ''There — take
it," he said, ''but I'm starving. I haven't a
copper ; not one !"
Then Letty looked at Otway, and in her
eyes he saw soft appeal and womanly pity.
" Let him keep it," she said, gently, and the
next moment Brandon, the five sovereigns
safe in his pocket and his tongue in his
VOL. I. K
I ^o A GAME OF CHANCE.
cheek, was hurrying away as fast as his legs
would carry him, and Otway and Letty were
OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF.
When she found herself standing face to
face with Otway, whose name had been so
freely and offensively used by her late half-
tipsy tormentor, Miss Erskine suddenly and
unaccountably lost her temper. Otway was
annoyed beyond measure that Brandon should
have obtruded himself and got money out of
her ; but, at the same time, he was so over-
joyed to find himself once more in her
presence that he would not let himself think
of the impertinent rascal who was already
out of sight.
He was also excited by the knowledge
that she had come to meet him after all. As
he was whirled along from London In the
132 A GAME OF CHANCE.
express he kept telling himself that she
would not come, that he must not expect
her ; and yet she must actually have been on
her way to the stile when that fellow inter-
" It was so good — so kind of you," he
said, breaking the awkward silence and hold-
ing out his hand.
" What was good of me ?" she said, and
she pretended not to see the hand. " I wish
I hadn't been so foolish."
His face fell. '' I do not call it foolish," he
''Then you are very inconsistent," she
retorted, " and if you do not call it foolish,
why did you make him give back the
" I was not thinking of the money," he
said. " I meant that it was kind of you to
come and meet me."
'' Oh," and she tossed her pretty head. " I
was just thinking of going back to the house
OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. 1 33
when that man came up. I came out for a
walk ; I never meant to go to the stile.
Why did you listen to me and allow him to
keep the money ?" she went on, pettishly.
*' You must have known that I was silly to
ask you. A man like you ought to know
better than to give in to a girl."
That was Otway's own belief as regarded
girls in general, but to this special girl who
had bewitched him by her beauty and her
pretty ways, he could refuse nothing.
''You think so?" he said, gazing at her
with that worshipping look in his eyes which
liattered, while it provoked her. "All I
know is that I could not refuse you anything."
"Then I must say you are very silly," she
said, decidedly, and she walked away from
him. " That man will make a very bad use
of that money."
" He is quite welcome," said Otway. " I
am afraid I do not care very much what
happens to him, but I do want to know what
134 A GAI^IE OF CHANCE.
he said to you. I hope he was not very im-
Not for worlds would Letty repeat Bran-
don's words ; some instinct told her that they
were very impertinent, although she did not
quite understand them. ''He said he was
hungry, and that he wanted to get back to
London," she explained.
'' He did not try to frighten you, then ?"
"Oh, dear, no," said Letty, ''but I hope
he will eo to London now ; I do not want to
have him prowling about here."
" I am afraid he was insolent to you," said
Otway, with injudicious solicitude in his voice
and manner, ''you were looking quite pale
when I came up."
" Oh, dear ! I wish you would not w^atch
one so. It is very disagreeable," was the
snappish rejoinder. " I really must beg of
you, Mr. Otway, not to notice whether I
am pale or red." She began to walk on
very fast as soon as she had delivered that
OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. 1 35
crushing rebuke, but he was beside her in a
'' I cannot help looking at you," he said,
quite humbly. "It is the only pleasure I
have when you are so unkind to me."
She o-ave her shoulders a little shrug, and
turned her head away that he might not see
she was laughing. " He is too absurd," she
said to herself. Then she walked on, hum-
ming a gay little tune, and not a word did
she vouchsafe to the patient slave at her side.
" I hope Miss Lambton and Sir John are
quite well," he said, at last.
" Quite well, thank you," and she hummed
''And I hope you have good news from
" Very good."
'' And how are Fire and Smoke ?"
'^Very well indeed. They tried to run
away with me last week."
''Good heavens! I hope you were not
136 A GAME OF CHANCE.
alone. Were you frightened ? You terrify
'' Oh, not In the least ; it was great fun."
She hummed away at her song and took no
notice of his anxiety. The pretty profile was
all he could see, for she never once turned
the eyes he was pining to look Into towards
him. Was the walk he had been looking
forward to ever since he went to town really
to end In this way ?
At last a fallen tree in a tempting position
came Into view. Miss Letty sat down, and
Otway meekly placed himself beside her.
There was silence for a few minutes, then she
said, suddenly, " I am sorry I was so cross,"
and held out her hand.
It was ungloved, white, soft and pretty.
He took it eagerly, and, in a tender but half-
irresolute manner, raised it to his lips.
" You should not do that," she said, as she
tried to draw it away, but he would not let it
*' I may as well tell you now as a week
hence," he said, and his voice was husky with
emotion. " I love you. Letty. I love you
with my whole heart."
" I am very sorry to hear it," she answered
promptly, and with an irresistible smile
curving her lips. " We were such good
friends, and everything was so nice and
pleasant. Oh, how can you be so foolish ?"
" Do not mock me in that cruel way," he
cried. " I was half- afraid you would not be
kind to me, but you must not blame me for
what I cannot help. I can no more help
loving you than the sun can help shining. I
am not vain enough to suppose that you care
for me, Letty ; but let me love you, and by
and by perhaps I may teach you "
She broke into a merry laugh. " Xo one
could ever teach me anything," she said,
" especially if I did not choose to learn, and
in this instance I do not choose. I do not
want a lover ; it is so ridiculous when I think
138 A GAME OF CHANCE.
that about a year ago I had a doll. I am
sure when you think over It seriously, Mr.
Otway, you will be very glad I did not listen
'' Glad !" he repeated. '* Glad, when I
would give the world, if I had it, to know
that you even thought kindly of me. I love
you so dearly, so devotedly, there is nothing
I would not give up to please you — to try
and win you."
" That is exactly what men say in books,
but I do not think it means much," she
answered, calmly. "We girls are very nice,
of course, and I suppose men cannot help
falling in love with us, but to talk of giving
up the whole world for us is simply ridiculous.
It really means nothing, if you think of it."
" I mean everything by it," he answered,
''but I can see you do not love me, or you
would not laugh at me ; yet, for all that, I
am sure I could make you happy if you
would be my wife."
OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. 1 39
" You would give me my own way in
everything, I suppose," she said. '' Let me
do exactly as I liked ?"
"It would be the study of my life to please
you in every way — to anticipate, if possible,
your every wish. I am glad to say I am
in a position to surround you with as much
comfort and luxury as you enjoy in your
father's house ; and in addition, my darling,
you would have the devotion of a heart that
has never known love for any woman before."
She looked at him with her frank eyes,
unabashed as usual. " Indeed," she said,
gravely, " I am not sure that it is such a
great recommendation to a heart after all.
I should not care if you had been in love
a dozen times. It must be rather stupid to
have no experience."
"You like making fun of me," he said,
" but I do not find fault if only I may love
" There is no law against it, that I know
140 A GAME OF CHANCE.
of." she answered, "but you must not expect
anything. I am very much obhged to you,
Mr. Otway ; very much indeed. I feel quite
proud that I have had my first offer of
marriage ; but I am quite satisfied with the
spoiHng I get at home from papa and Aunt
Louise. Yours would be very nice, too,
perhaps, but still I might not like it as well ;
and then, you see, it would be very shabby of
me, would it not ? — to take everything and
give nothing in return."
'' You would give me yourself !" he cried,
*' and your sweet companionship in my lonely
" Oh ! I am not much of a companion, I
assure you," interrupted Letty, "you would
have to spend the most of your time amusing
me, and giving me new gowns, and taking me
to the theatres. If I lived in London with a
stranger like you I should want so much
amusement. It would not be like home, you
OTWAV MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. I4I
^' Home !" he repeated. " Oh, Letty ! It
would be Paradise to me with you."
''Very Hkely," she answered, ''but I must
think of myself. But do not let us talk any
more about it, if you please. I had no idea
you were foolish enough to fall in love, and
the sooner you get over it the better."
"You do not know what you are saying,"
he interrupted, mournfully. " You have
grown to be part of my very life. It is not
love I feel for you — it is worship — idolatry ;
see," and kneeling at her feet he stooped and
kissed the hem of her gown.
She rose in a great hurry, blushing all
over her face, and very nearly knocked him
"I am surprised, Mr. Otway," she ex-
claimed; " and— and— vexed. Do get up.
There is Orion staring at you, and no
wonder. I do not like to see a man on his
knees, and you will find that green mossy
earth very hard to brush off You should
142 A GAME OF CHANCE.
have spread your handkerchief, as the old
men do in the free seats at church."
" I should not mind kneeling there for a
month if I could hope to win you at the end
of it," he said.
She gave him a half-compassionate, half-
contemptuous look. ''You will never win
me by kneeling to me," she muttered.
" I beg your pardon. Did you speak?" he
" No," she answered, crossly, " I did not
speak ; and I am not going to speak any
more. I am going home."
And not another word was exchanged
between them until they reached the house.
Otway looked sadly dejected. Letty's cheeks
were on fire, and her heart was beating
wildly. After all, although he was so foolish
and so unmanned in her presence, he was
ardently in love, and that in itself was a
dangerous attraction ; an idea to fall in love
with if she could not love the lover.
OTWAY MAKES A FOOL OF HIMSELF. 1 43
In the hall they met Miss Lambton. ''Oh,
how do you do, Mr. Otway ? Very pleased
to see you back again. Will you excuse Sir
John for a few minutes ? He wants Letty in
the library. Will you go to him, dear ? The
Indian mail is in."
THE NEWS FROM INDIA.
Letty disappeared not altogether sorry to
escape for a time. Otway pulled himself
together with an effort and followed his
hostess into the morning-room. ''Sir John
has not had any bad news, I hope," he said,
politely. He saw that Miss Lambton was
excited and nervous, and not much in the
mood for the entertainment of guests.
" Oh, no ; not bad, really," she answered,
as she seated herself and tried to look at her
ease, "indeed most people would call it good,
I think — very good ; but my brother-in-law
Is just a little bit put out and disappointed,
I think. It is rather unexpected, certainly ;
at least Letty and I thought we might hear
THE NEWS FROM INDIA. 1 45
something before long, but Sir John always
said it was nonsense, just because he did not
quite like it, you know."
"I suppose," said Otway, ''I am not wrong
in thinking that the news has something to
do with Mr. Erskine — your nephew — Miss
"With Jack?" said Miss Lambton, "you
are quite right ; it is all about Jack. There
is no reason why you should not know. He
writes to say that he is engaged to be married
to that Miss Gordon ; have you heard of her.-^
I forget. The dear boy is very much in
love and very happy, but somehow I can't
take it all in. It would be just the same if
Letty were engaged ; I could not take it
" You told me when I was here before that
your nephew was very much smitten with
Miss Gordon, and I mentioned, if you re-
member, that she was a sort of connection of
mine. Her half-sister married my only
VOL. I. L
146 A GAME OF CHANCE.
brother. I never met Amy Gordon, but I
believe she Is very charming."
'' So Jack says, of course. How odd that
you should know anything about her. I
think it will please Sir John, as he likes you.
I suppose you met Letty and walked home
with her ? I am very glad you were able to
run down this week ; you will talk to Sir
John, and In a day or two he will be quite
reconciled to Jack's engagement. I want
him to write a nice letter to the dear boy by
the next mail."
Letty found her father waiting for her with
his son's letter In his hand. ''What is it,
papa ?" she said ; "a letter from Jack ? Is he
coming home ?"
" No ; he's not coming home, but he's
going to be married "
''To Amy Gordon!" cried Letty. "Oh,
I knew he would. Aunt Louise and I always
said he was In love with her. What does he
say ? Has he sent her photograph ?"
THE NEWS FROM INDIA. 1 47
" No, the young idiot says no photograph
does her justice. Here is the letter," and Sir
John began to read: '"Mv dear Father and
Everyone, — I have only a few minutes to
save the mail, but I must send you a line
to tell you that I am the happiest man in the
world. I am engaged to Amy Gordon, and
we are to be married very soon. She is,
without any exception, the most beautiful
and the sweetest, dearest, darling in the
world.' Did anyone ever hear such bosh ?"
put in Sir John. " ' I know she loves me,
and I would give the whole world if I had it,
for her sake.' " "I suppose they all say that,"
murmured Letty, blushing as she remem-
bered Ot way's declaration of half- an -hour
ago. '' * You must all write to her, and tell
her how pleased you are ; I have already
told her all about the dear old home, and
she sends her love and a sweet kiss to you
all.' There," said Sir John, ''what do you
think of that for rubbish ? Stay, there is a
148 A GAME OF CHANCE.
P.S. : ' We are going to — to ' I can't read
the name, 'for our honeymoon — Amy and I,
and her maid, Rossitur. I have not made
up my mind whether I Hke that same maid
or not, but Amy says she is a treasure, so
it's all right.' "
*' Well, papa," said Letty, "what do you
"What do I say? What is the use of
saying anything now ? The rascal has taken
the law into his own hands, and we must
make the best of it. I wanted him to marry
Lucy Knollys, but if this girl is nice,
and a lady, there is no great objection, I
"And if they care for one another," put in
" Oh, Jack seems pretty hard hit ; and of
course she likes him, too, or I suppose she
would not marry him."
" Do women ever marry men they are not
In love w^ith?" asked Letty. She was fiddling
THE NEWS FROM I1\DIA. 1 49
nervously with a paper-knife, and Otway's
passionate pleading was ringing in her ears.
" Well, I don't know\ I suppose they
do sometimes," said Sir John, doubtfully.
'' Poor women, unfortunately, have very
often to marry for a home ; but I think a
w^oman might get fond of a man after she
" I am sure I should hate him if I did not
love him very much before," said Letty,
decidedly, " especially if he w^ere very fond
of me and did not order me about. I could
not endure a man who was always on his
knees adoring me."
*' Order you about !" cried Sir John, laugh-
ing. '' I should like to see the man who
would order you about, you little tyrant. I
never venture to do it."
" But a husband and a father are different,
you know," said Letty. " Quite different."
'' When did you find that out, you mon-
key ?" and Sir John took his daughter's
150 A GAME OF CHANCE.
pretty chin between his finger and thumb and
turned her face towards him. " Hallo, what
does this mean .^" as the deep red colour rose
again. "What are you asking about hus-
bands for, I should like to know .^"
'' Mr. Otway wants me to marry him,"
answered Letty, speaking very fast. " I met
him in the beech wood as he was coming
from the train, and he asked me."
" And what did you say ?"
" I believe 1 laughed at him. He was
very silly and sentimental."
" Then you don't care for him ?"
'' I do not think I do. I hate the way he
goes on — as if I were something too good for
this world. He is so sensible and manly and
clever until he begins to talk about love."
"And what happens then?" asked Sir
" He becomes perfectly idiotic," answered
Letty, calmly. " I know I am very pretty
and lively, and I might, perhaps, make a nice
THE NEWS FROM INDIA. 15I
wife ; but when a man goes down on his
knees and sees no fault in me I call him very
Sir John burst out laughing. '' Poor
Otway !" he said. '* He has no chance, I
" Not unless he gives up all that nonsense,
and behaves like a man, not a goose," said
" Where is he now .^" asked Sir John.
*' Did you leave him lamenting in the beech
" Oh, dear, no ; we came home together,
and he is with Aunt Louise, I suppose.
Please, daddy," and she wound her arms
round her father's neck and laid her pretty
cheek against his ruddy one, ''don't pretend
that you know anything about it ; and if he
talks to you, you must not tell him that I
should like him better if — if "
" If he liked you less. Is that it .^"
"Oh, no, certainly not. I like to be liked,
152 A GAME OF CHANCE.
but I think a man is weak who goes on his
knees to a woman."
''In short, you prefer a commander to a
beggar. Is that It? Well, I am not going
to tell him what to do, my darling, for I do
not want to lose my daughter just yet."
" But he may change of his own accord,"
said Letty, saucily. "And now, daddy, you
go and tell him all about Jack, and if he
asks for me, say you do not know where I
Aunt Louise slipped away as soon as her
brother-in-law came in ; she wanted to talk
to Letty about the Indian news.
''Well, Otway, my boy," said Sir John,
heartily. " Glad to see you again. I have
just heard from my son In India; he is
engaged to be married. By the way, I think
you know something of the lady. Never saw
her, eh ? Well, Jack raves enough about her
beauty and her goodness ; but of course, she
is perfection in his eyes. Your sister-in-law
THE NEWS FROM INDIA, 1 53
is her sister-in-law — is that it ? No, her
step-sister — same father ? Jack hasn't sent
her photograph ; says she comes out badly.
Pretty women generally do. I never saw a
photo of Letty that was fit to look at. She
met you coming from the train, she says.
She had a fright the other day, soon after you
left us, with those confounded ponies. They
tried to bolt."
"Why not get rid of them ?" said Otway,
anxiously. " I am sure it is not safe for Miss
Erskine to drive them, and "
As he was speaking, Letty came in.
" Scandal about my ponies. I heard you,
sir !" she cried, and she shook her finger
threateningly at the infatuated Otway, who
the moment she appeared assumed the
vacuous expression of the longing lover.
'' I came to look for Aunt Louise's keys,"
Letty went on. " No, thank you," as Otway
came forward to join in the search. " Men
never can find anything, I notice. Please sit
154 -^ GAME OF CHA^XE.
down and talk to papa. There, now ; you
very nearly upset that little table, and you
frightened the bird. You see how she is
fluttering, and it is very bad for her to
flutter ; she is supposed to have heart disease.
Do be quiet and stand on the hearthrug out
Otway obeyed like a dog, and Letty con-
tinued her hunt for the lost keys and smiled
to herself in contempt at his obedience. " I
could not marry a man who did exactly as he
was told," she thought.
Presently the keys were found under an
open book on one of the sofas. " There,"
she said, " I knew I should find them if I
were let alone." She gave Otway a look
from under her long lashes as she left the
room and shook the keys at him. "If that
poor bird dies," she said, ''it will be all your
The two men stood side by side for a few-
moments in silence ; then Otway put his
THE NEWS FROM INDIA. 1 55
hand upon his host's shoulder, and said
earnestly, ''Will you give her to me, Sir
MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD.
At the moment Otway was asking this
momentous question, Mary Hamilton — Mrs.
Dysart-Smlth's pretty EngHsh governess —
was alone In one of the class-rooms of the
young ladles' college. She was seated at a
writing-table ; her elbows were on the table,
and her chin was supported on her hands.
A finished letter In Its addressed envelope
was beside her, writing materials were
spread out before her, but she was absorbed
Not half-an-hour before she had received
her dismissal from Mrs. Smith, on the pretext
that her supervision of her pupils was too lax
during play hours. A long consultation had
MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. 1 57
been held between the lady principal and her
daughter just before Mary's discipline was
called in question and her services dispensed
with, and if she had known that such a con-
sultation had taken place, it w^ould have given
her the clue she looked for in vain as she sat
with her elbow^s on the table and her pen and
paper before her.
She was convinced in her own mind that
Mrs. Smith had not given the real reason of
her abrupt dismissal, and she w^as naturally
not a little vexed at being treated in such a
curt and unkind manner. She put down her
elbows and scribbled off a note w^hich she
addressed to '' Miss Masham, The Rosary,
Little Centre Bridge ;" then she got up and
began to walk up and down the room. No
matter how courageous and self-reliant a
woman may be, she does not like to be
turned adrift at a moment's notice without
sufficient reason, and before long Mary
began to feel angry as w^ell as perplexed.
158 A GAME OF CHANCE.
" What does it mean ? What does It
mean ?" she said to herself as she again sat
down and began to scribble hieroglyphics
over her blotting paper. By degrees the
motion of her restless hand grew slower ;
the colour on her face, which was flushed,
deepened from rose pink to deep crimson.
It was only April, and the weather was by no
means warm, but Mary felt suddenly as if
she were stifling. '' It must be that," she
said. "He was certainly more careful to
keep the rain off me than off her. I wish I
had walked home alone." Then she jumped
up. feeling hotter than before, and put her
writing materials away in a drawer. ''What
a fool I am," she said, as she took up her
letters and went upstairs to her own room.
It was at the top of the house, and it was
not very large ; but it was a front room, and
from the window there was an excellent view
of the Rectory and the Rectory garden. Other
windows in the college commanded the same
MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. 1 59
view, but Mary's was the best of all. And It
was such a charming garden, too, w^ith Its
gnarled apple trees and stately pear trees, its
walls covered with peaches and nectarines, its
row of beehives at the further end, and such
quantities of sweet old-fashioned flowers, that
even a busy housemaid in Mrs. Smith's em-
ploy might be pardoned for lingering long at
a window just to look at it.
And it may as w^ell be confessed that Mary
Hamilton never went to her room without
taking a peep into this modern Paradise.
She was much too high up to be noticed by
anyone who happened to be In the garden,
so she could admire to her heart's content
without fear of detection. Her cheeks were
very pink still, uncomfortably hot, in fact ;
her very ears burned as she stood at the
open window^ and looked out. And what
did she see over the way that made the
colour get deeper and deeper still ?
In the very middle of the garden there
l6o A GAME OF CHANCE.
was a fine old apple tree, and directly under
it, gazing up into its branches, stood the
Rector, Dr. Murray, without his hat. He
was a tall handsome man of about forty-five
or fifty. His clothes were always well made,
and there was always a very snowy line of
linen above his high waistcoat. Altogether,
he was a man worth looking at. His back
was turned to Mary, and she could see dis-
tinctly a tiny bald place on the top of his
head. Clearly the doctors hair was begin-
ning to come off.
Much time, however, was not vouchsafed
to Mary for the contemplation of this phe-
nomenon, for Dr. Murray suddenly put on his
hat — he had simply taken it off to prevent it
from fallino^ off when he threw back his head
to look in to the apple tree — and walked away.
She saw no more of him, and she did not
know that he went straight out of the garden
into the street, turning in the direction of the
church, which stood, as has been already
MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. l6l
mentioned, in the middle of the High Street,
about fifty yards beyond the Post Office ; and
the Post Office was next door to Crump's, the
fancy shop par excellence of Little Centre
In five minutes after she lost sight of the
Rector, Mary went out to post her letters, but
she turned into Crump's, which came first, to
buy some knitting-cotton. She spent about
ten minutes over the purchase, then went
on to the Post Office to get stamps for her
letters, and there saw Dr. Murray writing a
Mary started. It seemed but ^v^ minutes
since she had seen him staring up into his
apple tree. She could not exactly turn and
fly, although some unaccountable impulse
urged her to do so ; besides, why should she.'*
He had as much right to be in the Post Office
sendinor off a teleQ^ram as she had to be there
buying stamps, so she stood meekly behind,
waiting until he made way for her.
VOL. L M
1 62 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Even very stupid people know sometimes
by instinct when they are in the way, or
when someone whom they know and would
like to speak to stands behind them. Dr.
Murray was the reverse of stupid, so he not
only immediately became conscious that he
was in the way, but that someone whom he
knew and liked was behind him, and he had
the curiosity to turn his head to see who It
And It was not a very remarkable object
by any means. He saw a pretty, neat little
figure, in a grey gown and a black jacket, and
a sweet face with shy soft eyes and very pink
cheeks. The Rector had never seen them as
pink before. He did not say a word, but he
shortened his telegram by at least three
words ; then, giving the paper and a shilling
to the clerk, he turned and shook hands with
'' I have not seen you since the concert,
Miss Hamilton," he said. " I hope you did
MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. 1 63
not catch cold? It was too bad of the rain
to come on just then, and I did not find
it easy to shelter two ladies under one
'' I got no cold, thank you," said Mary,
''but Miss Smith has a sore throat. She
says the drip from the umbrella went down
her neck." She might have added, ''And
that same drip has cost me my place."
" Dear, dear, how very unfortunate. I am
very sorry. She ought to have gone with
her mother in the fly. I suppose I must buy
a larger umbrella before the next concert."
Mary, who was stamping her letters, made
" Where are you going now ?" he asked, as,
having followed Mary out of the office, he
saw her drop her letters into the box.
" Home — to the college," she answered,
and, all unknown to herself, she gave a little
sigh as she held out her hand to her com-
164 A GAME OF CHANCE.
" I am going your way," he answered, and
turned with her.
Now, although she had been nearly two
years in Little Centre Bridge, that was the
first time she had ever walked through the
High Street in daylight escorted by the
Rector. Two evenings before, a concert had
been given in the town hall ; rain came on
unexpectedly, and Dr. jNIurray had escorted
Miss Dysart-Smith and INIiss Hamilton back
to the college. He walked, not next to Miss
Smith, as he ought to have done, but next
to Miss Hamilton, with the disastrous result
already mentioned — the drip from the um-
brella went down ]\Iiss Smith's neck and
gave her cold, while Miss Hamilton reached
home without a drop having fallen upon her.
Then the mother and daughter held a consul-
tation ; decided that ]\Iary's discipline during
play hours was too lax, and gave her notice.
This was all in her mind now as she
walked along beside the handsome Rector,
MISS DYSART-SMITH CATCHES COLD. 1 65
and it seemed to her that the always busy
High Street was unusually crowded that
afternoon, and everyone she knew abroad.
They passed little IMIss ^Masham, in her
Victoria, and she certainly raised her eye-
brows as she nodded and smiled. Then
they met Airs. Sumner, and presently they
came upon Mrs. \"erity, who. with three or
four acquaintances, all women, stood talking
and laughing outside the pastrycook's.
Alary could not think of anything to say,
and Dr. Alurray was silent, too. At last she
made a stupid remark upon the beauty of the
young foliage on the trees in the park.
"Ah, October is the time for the Erskine
beeches," cried the Rector, who was great
upon autumn tints.
"I know it is," Alary answered, "but I
shall be eone lono^ before October ; Airs.
Smith orave me notice this afternoon."
" You are QToino- awav !" cried the Rector.
upon whom the word notice jarred disagree-
1 66 A GAME OF CHANCE.
ably. "This is very sudden; very sudden
Not another word was said on either side
until the door leading into the grounds of the
college was reached ; then Dr. Murray said,
abruptly, ''How many afternoons have you
disengaged each week ?"
''Two," she answered, looking, as she felt,
very much surprised, " Tuesdays and Satur-
"And I never met you out before. Good-
As they were shaking hands the door was
opened, and Mrs. and Miss Dysart-Smith
THE VISITOR WHO ^YALKS OX THE GRASS.
It was on a Thursday that Mrs. Dysart-
Smith found Dr. Murray shaking hands with
Miss Hamilton at the door of the college
grounds. On Friday was Miss Masham's
fortnightly "At Home," and the Rector was
the very first arrival. This was so unusual
that his hostess allowed her surprise to
appear in her greeting. "Are you going to
give us an old sermon on Sunday ?" she said.
" You have never come to one of my Fridays
in good time before, and your excuse was
that you had your sermon to write."
" Quite true," he answered, smiling. " I
am going to preach an old sermon on Sun-
day, but not one you ever heard before."
1 68 A GAME OF CHANCE.
'' Take care. I have a capital memory.
I shall find you out ; and if I detect even one
sentence I know, I shall cough loudly."
" That will be awkward for me unless
you throw more originality into your cough
than I do into my sermon. There is so
much sameness in coughs that I may not be
able to distinguish your note of warning.
But I came early to find you alone If
" You are not going to make me an offer,
I hope ?"
The Rector laughed. '' Then you do not
think I am too old to marry ?" he said.
" On the contrary, you do not seem to me
old enough to know your own mind, or when
you have had encouragement enough to
justify you in proposing."
'' But have I received any ?"
*'You let your umbrella drip down the
poor girl's back and she did not resent it. I
assure you everyone is talking of that um-
THE VISITOR WHO WALKS ON THE GRASS. 1 69
brella of yours, and I cannot make out which
of the young ladles it dripped upon."
''Well, If you must know. It was upon
Miss Dysart-Smlth ; but I did not come here
early to talk about her. Do you know that
Miss Hamilton has been dismissed ?"
*^Yes ; I had a note from her last night."
" I want you to be kind enough to ask her
to afternoon tea here on Tuesday."
'* And what am I to do with her when she
comes?" asked Miss ]\Iasham, and she looked
at the Rector with an Inquisitive twinkle in
her kind bright eyes.
''Ask me, too, and I can help you to enter-
" If you are so anxious to see her why do
you not call at the college ? It Is just over
the way from the Rectory."
"I am afraid of Mrs. Dysart-Smlth."-
"And how are you going to entertain Miss
Hamilton if you meet her here ?"
"I do not know whether you will look .
170 A GAME OF CHANCE.
upon it in the light of an entertainment or
not, but I am going to ask her to marry me."
Miss Masham uttered a long-drawn "Ah!
You are a wise man not to go to the college
on that errand," she said. " Depend upon it,
Mrs. Smith found out how that umbrella of
yours dripped the other night — hence the
notice to quit. I assure you I am very glad,
and I hope Mary will not be silly enough to
" I refuse to contemplate that possibility at
all," said the Rector. " Of course, I cannot
force her to marry me, but it will be a terrible
disappointment if she says no."
" Have you ever made love to her .^"
Dr. Murray turned away with a gesture of
"There; don't be vexed," the indiscreet
old lady went on. " I suppose it would be
infra dig. for a D.D. to behave like a B.A.,
for instance. Now you just listen. By and
by I mean to have a bit of fun with our old
THE VISITOR \VHO WALKS ON THE GRASS. 171
friend Mrs. Smith. I am going to tell her
that I have heard of a situation that I think
will suit Mary."
When Miss Hamilton reached the pretty
little villa on the London Road the following
Tuesday, she found her small hostess in a
state of flurry and excitement, quite unusual
to her. She insisted upon taking the girl
upstairs at once to take off her hat and jacket
and arrange her hair. She even dived into a
drawer and brought out a dark red bow,
which, with her own hands, she pinned at
Mary's throat, in order to lighten up the
girl's grey gown.
''I cannot bear grey gowns without a spec
of colour about them," she said ; " and I am
sure I hope you will not be allowed to wear
them by and by."
''And who is to prevent me ?" Mary asked.
" I can't say," answered Miss Masham^
" but I hope someone will."
Mary stood at the window — a front one —
172 A GAME OF CHANCE.
looking out, while Miss Masham bustled
about the room. Presently the gate at the
end of the short drive clicked.
'' Another visitor ! Who can it be ?" and
she came to the window and peeped over her
" Dr. Murray, I declare ! Now what
brings him here to-day ? And he never
keeps on the gravel. He always will walk
upon the grass. There, you see he is on it
already. What an obstinate husband he will
make. Come down, child. I dare say he
has come to wheedle me out of a subscrip-
tion ; I have not given anything towards the
new organ yet. I declare that red bow has
given you quite a pretty colour. We saw
you coming, doctor," she began, as soon as
she opened the door, " and, as usual, you
walked on the grass. I never saw such a
man as you are. You have quite a little path
worn between the flower beds. W^hat am I
to do with you ?"
THE VISITOR WHO WALKS ON THE GRASS. I 75
'* Put a veto on my visits."
" Until you have someone with you to
keep you in order. Is that what you mean ?
Miss Hamilton arrived about ten minutes
ago ; I have not had time to ask her how
poor Miss Smith's throat is. But as she was
here on Friday evening she cannot be very
bad. What news is there in town to-day ?
Is it true that young John Erskine is en-
gaged to be married out in India ?"
" Quite true ; I had it from Sir John him-
" Is he pleased?"
"Well, he makes the best of it; but I
think he would like his son to marry at
"And I see they have got their pet Radical
staying with them again ; that handsome
young fellow who got all his bones broken at
the nomination. I saw him at church with
them on Sunday."
"He has come down to spend Easter,"
T74 A GAME OF CHANCE.
said the Rector. '' I met him there at
dinner, on Saturday night."
'' I suppose Sir John knows that the man
will very likely fall in love with Letty, if he
has not done so already. Mrs. Verity was
talking about it on Sunday; you know what
a gossip she is."
'' She waylaid me yesterday to try and find
out if I knew what fortune the future Mrs.
John Erskine has."
"We must provide them with a fresh
subject, or the poor Erskines will be worn
threadbare," said Miss Masham. '' Set your
wits to work, doctor, and think of something
new. And now will you excuse me if I leave
you to be entertained" — she laid a funny little
emphasis on the word — ''by Miss Hamilton
for half-an-hour, while I finish a letter for the
five o'clock post ?"
THE rector's hat.
It would be untrue to say that ^lary Hamil-
ton felt altogether at her ease when she found
herself alone with the Rector ; she did not
think that Miss Masham was kind to rush off
in that abrupt manner. She might have
letters to finish before post time, it was true,
but somehow Mary did not believe it. She
was not very shy in general, but on this
occasion she did not know w^hat to do ;
whether boldly to plunge into conversation
or wait for her companion to begin.
He was standing with his back to her,
looking out of one of the windows, and she
did not feel bold enough to address him.
Three minutes passed ; in desperation she
176 A GAME OF CHANCE.
took Up a book, but she had scarcely opened
it when Dr. Murray left the window and
came over to her ; then followed a few
seconds of utter bewilderment, before she
realised that he was asking her to be his wife.
There was no ambiguity In his love-
making; he said very little about his feelings,
but his meaning was unmistakable. Mary
made more than one effort to speak, but no
words would come, and she felt like a simple-
ton as she sat there, with the much-coveted
Rector of Little Centre Bridge standing
before her waiting for his answer.
" You might say something to me," he
pleaded at last. " I hope you will say 'yes,'
but an answer of some kind I have a right to
'' Ah ! you would not ask me If you knew
my story !" she broke out at last. Then she
covered her face and began to cry.
*' I do not think your 'story,' as you call it,
can be anything so very terrible," he
THE RECTORS HAT. 1 77
answered ; " and I am quite sure there is
nothing in it that would make me think less
highly of you."
On hearing this, Mary's sobs broke out
afresh, and, made desperate by the sight of
her grief, Dr. Murray knelt on one knee by
her side and tried to get her hands into his.
''My dear, don't cry," he said, quite
piteously. "I cannot answer for myself when
I see you in trouble. Tell me what it is,
and let mesee if I cannot make it lighter."
" You will not care for me any more when
you know," she said, mournfully.
'' I am not sure of that ; but you must let
me be the judge."
Mary gave a great sigh and began. " I —
I was not always poor," she said. " We
were w^ell off while my father was alive, and
I — I was engaged to be married "
" I am not surprised to hear that," put in
the Rector, smiling at her ; " but I am happy
to know that it was broken off."
VOL. I. N
178 A GAME OF CHANCE.
'* But not as you think. He — he jilted me "
— Mary whispered the terrible word. "When
papa died, and it was found out that he had
speculated and lost all his money, he went
away without even saying good-bye, and
married another woman directly. It nearly
broke my heart. It was such a — a disgrace
to be deserted In that way, and I cared for
''Poor child!" said the Rector, as he
pressed her hands fondly In his.
" Oh, you must not pity me," she cried.
" I can bear anything but that ; it hurts
''And I would not hurt you for the
She gave one quick look at him, and then
her eyes fell.
" You need not doubt It, Mary, for I love
you with all my heart. You do not really
think that I am going to let what you have
just told me come between us ? No, my
THE RECTORS HAT. I 79
dear, If you are going to reject me you
must find some better reason. The question
is — can you like me well enough to marry
" Like you ?" she repeated. '' Oh, Dr.
'' Well, what does that mean ?"
'' It means — oh, how can I tell you ?"
" V^ery easily. I am not particular about
the manner if the matter is to my liking-
Just make it clear to me that you will be my
" But are you quite sure you will not wish
to-morrow you had not asked me .^"
"If any such ridiculous idea enters my
head I promise to tell you of it directly."
" But do not people change their minds
sometimes when they begin to think over
" Well, considering that I have thought
over this for some time, I may be allowed to
say that any change is impossible. I wish I
l8o A GAME OF CHANCE.
were as sure of you, Mary, as I am of
''I am quite sure of myself," she answered,
softly, and on hearing the words, the doctor,
like a sensible man, without more ado took
her in his arms and kissed her. " You owe
me compensation," he said, "for having kept
me In suspense so long."
'' But it seems so strange that you should
want to marry me," said Mary.
" I do not see that," he answered. " I am
sure I did my best to show you that I liked
" Did you ever think of me when you
walked in your garden ?" Mary asked, when
the Rector had enlarged at length upon his
state of mind during the past six months;
and she heard with surprise that she had
often come between him and the writing of
his sermon. There was something wonderful
in the idea that he had been in love with her
for so long.
THE rector's hat. i8i
* ' What do you know about my walks in
the garden ?" he asked.
Mar)^ blushed and laughed. The doctor
pressed the question.
'' The window of my room overlooks your
garden," she said, '* and I used to see you
nearly every day."
" Very well, then if I confess to you, you
must confess to me. When you have seen
me in my garden did you ever wish to be
walking there with me ?"
" That is a very hard question."
'' Never mind that. Answer it."
" I thought it would be very pleasant — if
the weather were fine."
Dr. Murray laughed heartily. ''I do not
think I believe in the ' if,' " he said. " For
my part, ]^Iary, I can say with truth that I
thought of you, and you only, as I walked up
" You remember the day last week I met
you in the Post Office ?" said Mary.
182 A GAME OF CHANCE.
'' Perfectly. It was last Thursday ; the
day you told me you were going away.
What about It ?"
" Just before I went out with my letters I
saw you in the garden ; you had your hat off,
and you were looking up into an apple tree ;
were you thinking of me then ?"
" I am sure I was. I dare say I was
wondering if you knew how to make an
apple dumpling, you little sceptic. You
remember I walked back with you to the
college, and we met Mrs. and Miss Smith at
the gate. Did they say anything disagree-
able to you ?"
" Not a word."
'' They were very gracious to me, and I
could not help wondering what they would
say had they guessed that I was medi-
tating writing to you that very evening to
make you an offer. In fact, I began two
"Oh! I should like to see them," cried
THE RECTORS HAT. 1 83
Mary. " I suppose you thought If you wrote
to me someone would see the letters and
make a fuss."
" Well, yes ; I believe I did think a little
about the fuss, as you call It, but I wanted to
have the pleasure of hearing from your own
lips that you loved me and would be my wife ;
and now I want you to fix the day for our
marriage. It may as well be very soon ; we
have nothing to wait for."
A troubled expression came Into Mary's
soft eyes. "It Is all of no use," she said.
" I may fix the day, but it will come to
nothing. Do you know that I was twenty-
eight my last birthday, and I have been so
miserable ever since my father died that I
feel very old .^ If you marry me, all your
friends will say you have thrown yourself
'* I am a patient man, Mary, so I heard
you out. Come now, tell me honestly, do
you think I am throwing myself away ?"
184 A GAME OF CHANCE.
" I think if you really care for me, that I
can make you happy."
'' Then the question is settled ; and I hope
very soon to have you walking with me in
my garden, instead of looking at me from
Another hour passed before Miss Masham
reappeared, but the rest of the conversation
that took place between Dr. Murray and
Miss Hamilton is not worth recording ; the
sample already given is, perhaps, more
sensible than what followed. When Miss
Masham came in, she found Mary looking
out of the window, and the Rector on the
hearthrug, in the well-known John Bull
'' If I did not know that you both took up
your present very unnatural positions the
moment you heard my hand on the handle of
the door, I should say you had quarrelled !"
the little woman said. " Turn round, Mary,
and let me look at you. Cheeks like peonies,
THE rector's hat. 1 85
and that bow, I took so much trouble to put
on, all awry ! There is no change for the
worse in Dr. Murray, so I may take it for
granted that he has had everything his own
'' Not quite," said the Rector, gravely,
*'but I was getting on very fairly "
" Do not listen to him, Miss Masham,"
interrupted Mary. "He has had everything
his own way. My most carefully guarded
secrets have been wrung from me ! No
inquisitor was ever more unmerciful "
" She is not telling the truth," interrupted
the Rector, In his turn. '' It was nothing but
her Incredulity, her scepticism, that put off
the final setdement of a most Important
question. We were not engaged more than
five minutes when you "
"Oh!" cried Mary. " It struck half-past
five when you "
" Pray spare me the details," Interrupted
Miss Masham. " I can Imagine w^hat took
1 86 A GAME OF CHANCE.
place at half-past five, and it Is now past six.
I dismiss Dr. Murray's statement as to the
length of your engagement, as unworthy of
belief, and I want to know. Miss Hamilton,
when you think of telling Mrs. Dysart-Smlth
that you have found a situation you think will
** I forgot all about her," answered
Mary. " 1 am afraid she will be very
" I am sure she will. I do not know what
grounds she has to go upon, but I believe she
looked upon Dr. Murray as her future son-in-
law. However, you and he, Mary, must
settle It between you."
'' I am sure this girl does not think I am
to blame," said the Rector, as he put his arm
round Mary's waist. Nothing these women
say can hurt her now, and when she is my
" I prophesy that before you come back
from your honeymoon," said Miss Masham,
THE RECTORS HAT. iSy
'' the Ladies' College will have changed
" I shall always feel an interest in the
place for the sake of one window," whispered
Dr. Murray ; and Miss Masham, although
she pretended to be very busy clearing a
table for the tea-tray, saw the girl look up at
him with a bright, loving glance. The
Rector could not resist it ; he bent down and
gave her a kiss.
'' I see that it is quite useless to expect a
man to be sensible, even at his age, when he
falls in love," the old lady murmured.
The servant came in with the tea-tray, and
Mary and the doctor walked away to the
window, and there stood talking in whispers
until Miss Masham interrupted them.
'' I think you might let that poor girl have
a cup of tea, doctor," she said. " Tea was
really what she came for, you know, and we
are nearly an hour late."
" And as it was not what I came for, I
iSS A GAME OF CHANCE.
suppose I must not have any," he answered.
Then he went with Mary to the table and
Half-an-hour later, when he said good-bye
to Miss Masham, Mary would not allow him
to walk back with her to the town. " If we
are seen together again," she said, " everyone
will sav that I am trvinor to ' catch ' vou, and
I could not bear that."
" Then the sooner everyone knows you
have caught me the better I shall be
pleased," he answered, as he stood with her
at the gate. "And remember, the moment
I get home I shall go out and look up at that
" But you will not see me," said Mary. " I
do not mean to look into the garden any
'' Then you are very hard-hearted." He
was talking against time just to keep her
with him a little longer, but she broke away
at last, and looked round once onlv, to wave
THE RECTORS HAT. 1 89
her hand to him before she reached a turn in
As she went round the bend she came face
to face with Mrs, Dysart- Smith and her
daughter. They were on their way to call
upon Miss Masham,
**You will not get back to the college be-
fore the tea-bell rings. Miss Hamilton," said
Mrs. Smith, severely. " I think when you
are allowed out in the afternoon you might
be home in good time."
Mary murmured an incoherent apology^
and went on almost running in her excite-
ment. How fortunate that she had not
allowed the Rector to escort her ; but then it
was just possible that the Smiths would find
him still standing at Miss Masham s gate.
But he was not there; he was in the
drawing-room, holding forth to Miss Masham
about Mar)^ and his great happiness in having^
won her when the two ladies appeared on
190 A GAME OF CHANCE.
" They must have met her, and I cannot
face them," he said. "Call me a coward if
you like, but hide me somewhere."
"That door behind you leads into the
morning-room. There ! Be quick ; the
Philistines are upon us ! Bless the man !
He has left his hat behind him !" and Miss
Masham had barely time to throw it — fortu-
nately it was a soft, clerical wide-awake —
upon the ground behind a sofa, when the
two ladies were shown in.
When the effusive greetings were over,
Miss Dysart-Smith, as luck would have it,
seated herself on the sofa that screened the
hat ; if she turned her head ever so little she
must see it. For half-an-hour by the clock
on the chimney-piece the mother and
daughter sat and talked volubly, and poor
Miss Masham was on thorns. She had a
keen sense of the ridiculous, and she did not
want anything absurd to happen in her draw-
ing-room. And what could be more absurd
THE RECTORS HAT. I9I
than the discovery of the doctor's hat, except
the discovery of the doctor himself, hidden
away in the morning-room.
At last the visitors stood up to go, and
there was a muslin antimacassar found en-
tangled by Its lace edging in the beaded
fringe of Miss Smith's mantle. Was ever
anything so unlucky ! She took it off, turned
to replace It upon the sofa, and, as she did so,
she saw the hat. She knew whose it was ;
there was not another exactly like it in Little
Centre Bridge. Now, in his own house a
man is generally not far from his own hat,
and in a strange house he must be very near
indeed, and Miss Smith peered down as if
she expected to see the Rector crouching on
the floor beside his head-gear ; but he was
not visible, and she had to go away.
Miss Masham gave a great sigh of relief
as her visitors disappeared ; then she ran to
the door of the morning-room, and, opening
it, called out, ''The coast Is clear. Here Is
192 A GAME OF CHANCE.
your hat." There was no reply ; she looked
in ; the room was empty ; the Rector had
gone off without his hat.
OTWAY IN CHAINS.
When Otway asked Sir John if he would
give him his daughter, he did not imagine
that Letty had already told her father what
had taken place in the wood. Sir John
showed no surprise ; he said simply enough,
" The child told me you had asked her, and I
think you had better be satisfied with her
answer. I could not give her to you against
" But I do not think she knows how much
in earnest I am," pleaded Otway. **Your
consent might have some weight."
"Humph!" said Sir John, remembering
Letty's comments upon her lover's manner.
'' But you have no objection to me per-
VOL. I. o
194 A GAME OF CHANCE.
sonally, have you, Sir John ?" said Otway,
" Not the slightest, my boy. I do not
like your politics, but, after all, they don't
count for much now-a-days, do they ? And
we can afford to differ. I know nothing
against you, and I believe you are fond of
the child; indeed, I may as well tell you that
I suspected your fancy for her long ago.
But she doesn't care a pin for you ; she
says she doesn't."
Poor Otway winced visibly. '* That is
hard upon me," he said; "very hard."
''But you do not want a wife who does
not love you, I suppose ?"
'' I want her," the young man answered,
" and I mean to do my very best to win her
if I can."
" I suppose," said Sir John, with an air of
the greatest Innocency, *'you have done your
best already ? Gone the right way to work,
you know, and all that. Isn't it true that
OTWAY IN CHAINS. 1 95
some women are caught one way and some
*' There is but one way that I know of.
If a man loves a woman to desperation, as I
do, he tells her so, and does all he can to win
her love in return."
"And all is very little, sometimes," mut-
tered Sir John, who felt bound in honour not
to give Otway a hint to be less meek and
submissive ; besides, although he liked the
man well enough, he did not want to lose
Letty just yet.
"She is very young," the lover went on,
"and very guileless and innocent; and it is
very presumptuous, perhaps, of me to think
that I could make her happy. To have her
for my very own would make me so per-
fectly, so absolutely content, that perhaps I
do not think enough about her, and "
" For goodness' sake do not get meta-
physical or logical, or whatever it is,"
interrupted Sir John, upon whom such
196 A GAME OF CHANCE.
reasoning was utterly lost. '' A girl mar-
ries a man because she loves him, and they
are bound to make the best of one another.
That is my idea of matrimony, and if you
and Letty agree to take one another ' for
better, for worse,' you have my consent.
What more can I say ? And now come along
with me to the stables ; I want to show you
a cob I bought the other day for my own
During the next few days, although Otway
and Letty were very much together, and
often alone, he was silent on the subject of
his love. His visit was to last nearly a
fortnight, as Easter Day did not fall until
the Sunday week after he came down ; if she
again rejected him, he felt that he could
not stay on as her father's guest, and so he
His silence was In his favour. Letty
thought much of that fervent declaration In
the wood ; Indeed, she thought more of it
OTWAY IN CHAINS. 1 97
than of the man who made it, for when she
thought of him, his want of self-assertion
annoyed her. But it was very sweet to be
so worshipped and adored, and it would, no
doubt, be very delightful, in many ways,
to marry a man who was prepared to carry
on the worship and adoration ; she could not
feel any great amount of respect for him, but
then he could not expect what he did not
" I could simply turn him round my finger,"
she often said to herself, and she took to
practising diverse little arts upon him, and he
fell so easily into all her traps and pitfalls,
and let her see so plainly that any ill treat-
ment was better than neglect and indifference,
that she presently began to look upon him as
a puppet specially retained to dance to her
" If I marry him," she used to say to
herself, "he must let me live here at home
more than half the year with papa and Aunt
198 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Louise ; they would be so lonely by them-
selves. We do not want him to be always
about, but I could run up to town sometimes
to see how he Is getting on. I should die If
I had to keep on ordering dinners every day
all the year round. What I should like
would be to marry him ; to have a very, very
short honeymoon — I suppose he would Insist
upon a honeymoon, but I am afraid I should
have lost all patience with him at the end of
a week — and then for us to separate. I
could come here to papa, and he could go
back to London. That would be delightful !
Yes ; I am very much afraid If I were too
much with him, and he behaved always In
that Idiotic way, telling me that I was an
angel and that he adored me, I should
dislike him, and I do not want to dislike
With her mind full of these most absurd
Ideas, she was kinder to Otway as the days
went on ; teasing him less and less, and not
OTWAY IN CHAINS. 1 99
snapping off his admiring speeches quite so
short. But she did not fall in love with him.
His visit was coming to an end, and he re-
solved to make one more effort. She walked
with him nearly every afternoon, and on
Easter Monday, accident having brought
them to the beech coppice again, he found
his opportunity and spoke.
Letty did not seat herself this time upon
the fallen tree ; she remained leaning against
an upright one ; Otway stood facing her at
a little distance.
" It Is nearly your last day," she said, care-
" My last day of happiness," he said, " un-
less you allow me to come back."
" I have nothing to do with it. Papa will
probably ask you."
" You have everything. Give me one ray
of hope, Letty ; only one."
" How much is a ray ?" she asked, saucily.
" How am I to measure it ?"
200 A GAME OF CHANCE.
" Say you will be glad to see me."
'' You know that already."
" But I will not come back for that," he
protested. '' At least, I will not if I can
" I do not think you could keep away,"
she answered, still with her saucy air, "you
are very fond of — the Chase."
'' No, Letty, but of you. I did not think
It was possible to love you more than I did
when we talked on this very spot the day
I came back, but I know better now. Am I
to go to my work in London, miserable —
broken-hearted ? Do you not care for me
even a little ? You have been kinder of
"How much would satisfy you?" she
asked, half-fllppantly. " I am afraid to say a
word lest you should ask too much."
" Your will is law to me," he cried, passion-
ately, "try me — trust me! I swear to you
not to encroach upon your kindness. Let
OTWAY IN CHAINS. 20I
me love you ; that is all I ask, until — until
you are my wife."
"And my will must be law then, too,"
"You will marry me, then ?"
" On those terms."
"Oh, Letty ; my darling!" In his delight
Otway would have clasped her in his arms
and kissed her, but she would not allow him.
" That is not the way to begin," she said,
and there was not a smile on her face, "at
least, it is not vty way. Come and let us
take a walk ; we have dawdled here long
As they walked she chatted to him upon
every imaginable subject but the one so
near his heart ; every attempt he made to
speak of his feelings, his hopes for the future,
his rapture at her acceptance, she either
laughed at or received with a stolidity of
demeanour that drove him to the verge of
202 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Would she not listen while he said once,
just once, how happy she had made him, and
how devotedly — how ardently he loved her ?
No ; she did not want to hear it all over
again ; she liked him very much better when
he talked about music, or books, or plays, or
even politics, which she confessed she did not
understand. There was nothing in the whole
world as silly as love-making, and she hated it.
Yes ; she had said she would marry him ; it
was not exactly a promise, but if she did not
change her mind she would marry him by
and by. No, he must not call her ''his own,"
or " an angel " either. She was neither the
one nor the other ; she was Letty Erskine,
and if he w^ent on his knees to her, which he
seemed very well inclined to do, she would
not let him kiss her.
And while she thus tormented him, and
drove him almost wild with her banter and
rebuffs, she was saying to herself — " Oh, if
you only knew what a little audacity would
OTWAY IN CHAINS. 203
do. Why don't you say, ' Letty, you must,'
instead of ' Letty, will you ?' with your heart
in your eyes ? You could so easily take by
force what I will not give for beseeching."
An hour after the scene in the beech copse
when Letty, with her infatuated slave in
excellent order by her side, entered the
house. Miss Lambton came running to meet
*' I have just been to look for you, dear,'"
she cried, ''there is an Indian telegram. Jack
A LETTER FROM JACK.
It was the height of the London season.
Everyone was in town ; the weather was
fine ; the shops were looking their gayest
and prettiest ; there were attractive bills at
the theatres ; there was plenty of first-rate
music to be heard ; and half-a-dozen new
beauties were on view every day in the
The Erskines had a furnished house in
Halkin Street ; Sir John liked to be near
what he was pleased to call the " scene of his
labours at Westminster." He was a most
conscientious member ; would sit for hours
listening to most uninteresting debates,
Avas never out of the way when a division
A LETTER FROM JACK. 205
was expected, and never opened his lips
except to speak to a friend.
There was a Drawing-room soon after
Easter. Letty was presented, and she had
the pleasure of reading a detailed catalogue
of her charms in one or two of the " society "
papers. It was not disagreeable, of course,
to know that her youth and peculiar style of
beauty enabled her to bear the trying ordeal
of Court dress by daylight, but it was not
so delightful to find it broadly hinted in
another paragraph that it was this "lovely
ddbutante who had won the Stoneshire
election for her father, Sir John Erskine ;"
or that it was " an open secret that the
Liberal candidate, who had so suddenly and
unaccountably retired from the contest for
Stoneshire, was engaged to the beautiful
daughter of the present member, a Conser-
vative of the old-fashioned type."
If Otway saw the objectionable allusions
to himself and his betrothed, he never
206 A GAME OF CHANCE.
mentioned them. The enQfacrement between
them was really known only to a few very
old friends, for, although Sir John had given
his consent willingly enough, he did not wish
Letty to marry for six months at least, and
the girl herself would willingly have put it
off for a year could she have found any
pretext, save her own unreasonable caprice,
for the postponement. Otway, more in love,
if possible, than he had been when he asked
her to marry him, unconsciously did his best
to turn the girl's heart away from him by his
continued and never-failing patience and for-
bearance with all her whims and fancies. If
she tried to provoke him by flirting with
other men, he would simply look at her in
mute reproach, instead of getting angry, and
scolding and upbraiding her, as she wished
him to do. It is quite possible that he felt
jealous, but he never showed it.
He submitted to her caprices, and they
were legion ; he endured her neglect when
A LETTER FROM JACK. 207
she neglected him, with unfailing good-
temper, and was rapturously, absurdly grate-
ful when she noticed him with favour and
approval. His desire was to win her by
his dumb, dog-like devotion, and she never
for a moment imagined that it was only by
the exercise of his iron will that he kept the
passionate love he felt for her in check. It
was a terrible mistake on her part to imagine
that he was weak, and on his to hide his
strength ; and when they found out their
error, it was too late to rectify it.
The people of Little Centre Bridge had
been overwhelmed with subjects for gossip
when, almost at the same moment, it became
known that young Erskine was actually
married in India, that his sister Letty was
engaged to Herbert Otway — for, somehow,
It got out that she had accepted him,
although Sir John wished the matter to be
kept secret — and that the Rector, Dr.
Murray, was going to marry Mary Hamil-
208 A GAME OF CHANCE.
ton, the English governess at the Ladles'
And It was that extraordinary and un-
looked for bit of news that extinguished
everything else. Everyone wanted to know
how it had come about. Everyone said
what a " clever, sly little thing " she was to
*' catch " him, and everyone was curious
to know how Mrs. Dysart-Smlth and her
daughter would take it.
To all appearance, they bore It extremely
well. Mrs. Smith was too clever a woman
to let her disappointment be seen ; so, the
moment she heard that Mary was actually
engaged, she changed her tactics, over-
whelmed the bride-elect with congratulations
and kindness, and very neatly turned the
tables upon her own friends and acquain-
tances — who were looking out for her discom-
fiture — by telling them how delighted she was
that the " dear girl was going to have a good
husband and a happy home of her own."
A LETTER FROM JACK. 209
It was now the end of May. Sir John, his
daughter and Miss Lambton were seated
at a rather late breakfast, and Letty was
looking as bright and as pretty as If she had
not been dancing until two o'clock that same
morning. She was the last to come down,
certainly, but her father had only just opened
the Times when she came in.
*' Good-morning, my pet," he said, as she
kissed him. ''There is a letter from Jack for
you. Let's hear the news ; we have had
but one shabby half-sheet from him, the lazy
rascal, since he married."
" And that was all taken up with raptures
about his bride !" said Letty. " What are
you smiling at. Aunt Louise ? Who is your
long letter from ?"
" From Jane Masham. The Rector was
married the day before yesterday, and he and
Mrs. Murray are off to the Lakes. She was
married from the Rosary, and Mrs. Dysart-
Smith's present was the cake, and she and
VOL. L P
2IO A GAME OF CHANCE.
Miss Smith were at the wedding. The
church was most beautifully decorated, Jane
Masham says, and the day was kept as a sort
of holiday in the town."
" I see the marriage in the Times this
morning," said Sir John. " I wish we had
been there. I suppose, Miss Letty, yours
will be the next grand wedding in Little
Centre Bridge ?"
'* I mean to be married in London, if I
marry at all," Letty answered. ''I do not
want to be stared at." Then she opened her
Indian letter, and began to read. "They are
back at Meerut," she said, presently, " and
there are all manner of gaieties going on for
the bride. Jack says he is as happy as
possible, and his darling Amy is so much
admired, he is prouder of her than ever. I
can't fancy Jack married! Can you, papa?
' I wish 1 could bring her home and introduce
her to you all,' " the girl went on, reading from
the letter, "'but that is impossible, just yet.
A LETTER FROM JACK. 2 I I
Your old friend, Arthur Fllmer, is beginning
to knock up with the cHmate, and will pro-
bably have to go home on sick-leave before
long. He will look you up at the Chase, and
bring you some presents we picked up on our
travels.' Now there are some more raptures
about Amy, which I am going to skip, if you
please," said Letty. "There is no doubt that
when men fall in love they become perfectly
idiotic. What is this ? This looks more in-
teresting. ' You remember I told you about
Amy's good-looking maid, Rossitur ? I
forgot to mention in my last that she was
married just a fortnight before we were, to
my man, Pottinger, who came to the Chase
for the dogs, you remember, before I left.
We knew she was engaged to him, but I did
not think it would come to anything, for,
between ourselves, she is the most outrageous
flirt I ever met. Lots of our fellows were
after her, and, to tell you the truth, I thought
at one time, Buncombe, of Ours, would marry
2 12 A GAME OF CHANCE.
her. By the way, he is next heir, he says, to
old Wat Duncombe, of the Hermitage — the
governor knows him — the ''hermit," we used
to call him — so you may have Walter for a
neighbour some day. I don't like the fellow
myself, and I wish he was out of the regiment,
but that's neither here nor there. Well, I
was going to tell you that this Duncombe was
very sweet upon Rossitur, and Amy tells me
that Pottinger threatened ''to do for him,"
more than once, but, as she is now Mrs. P., I
suppose it is all right. The absurd thing is
that Duncombe and Filmer, and a lot more of
the fellows, insist that Rossitur is like my
wife! I'm hanged if I can see it ; but I dare
say you will be able to judge for yourself
some day, when we come home, for nothing
would induce Amy to part with " Rossitur,"
as she is still called. I don't take to her so
much myself, but I would not vex Amy, by
saying so, for the world.' "
** There," said Letty, " I hope he has
A LETTER FROM JACK. 213
written enough about that tiresome woman.
I cannot tell you what a dislike I have taken
to her, although I never saw her ; and I have
a most extraordinary presentiment about her,
too, as If she would do us some harm some
''Oh, that Is nonsense," said Sir John.
" I suppose It Is," said Letty. Then, after
a pause, '' I'm so glad Arthur Fllmer Is
coming home ; he Is such a dear nice fellow."
" You must not let Herbert hear you say
that," said Sir John ; "he will be jealous."
''He jealous!" cried Letty, tossing her
head, "I do not believe he knows how."
" Don't you Indeed ! You had better not
try him too far. Is he coming to ride with
you this morning ?''
" No, I put him off. I would much rather
go with you, daddy. When he Is with me I
am simply bored to death. He Is always
staring at me as If he never saw me before,
and asking If I would not like to go to this
2 14 ^ GAME OF CHANCE.
play or that concert. Why does he not
settle where I am to go, and then take me,
whether I like It or not ?"
'' Perhaps he does not think you would
like that style of thing, my dear."
" Let him try it. I am tired of having my
own way. I should like a little coercion by
way of variety. But you must not tell him,
papa. Let him find out for himself, if he
Sir John laughed. He thought It all a
good joke. '' Poor Otway !" he said, *' you
will lead him a life when you are married."
'' Yes ; when we are," the girl muttered, as
she took up her brother's letter again. " Oh,
papa," she said, presently, ''do you ever see
anything of that old Mr. Buncombe Jack
'' No ; not now. He used to sit on the
bench sometimes when there was a poaching
case, but he hardly ever leaves the house
now, I hear, and no one visits him. He is
A LETTER FROM JACK. 215
not a very reputable character, I am afraid,
if all accounts be true, and I suspect that
nephew or cousin of his, who is in Jack's
regiment, is not much better. But don't you
wonder that Jack's wife keeps that woman —
what's her name — about her, Louise ?" he
added, addressing his sister-in-law. "Flighty
maid generally means flighty mistress, I
think ; and they say she is like Amy, too."
" But Jack doesn't, papa."
" Oh, no ; of course he wouldn't see the
likeness, but I daresay it's there. I re-
member that fellow Pottinger very well — a
good-looking fellow — and I remember saying
to Jack that he looked an excitable sort of
chap ; and Jack told me he had had a great
shock just before he came to the Chase.
A gamekeeper shot himself on account of
some girl. He was jealous of Pottinger, I
" But that girl could not have been Rossi-
tur," said Letty. "Could she, papa?"
2l6 A GAME OF CHANCE
" I suppose not, my dear, if she was Miss
'' But, remember," said Miss Lambton,
"Amy and Rossitur went out in the Great
Pyramid three years ago, with Jack."
"And what has that to do with it?" cried
Sir John, testily. " I am sick of the very
name of that maid of Amy's. I wish you
would tell Jack not to write about her any
NO. 200, queen's gate TERRACE.
Seated at his solitary breakfast that same
morning In his bachelor flat In Victoria
Street, Westminster, Otway worked his way
^n a rather desultory fashion through his cor-
respondence. He was late that morning as
well as his friends In Halkin Street, and had
he been depending upon his profession for a
livelihood, he could not have afforded to
neglect his work as he had done since the
Ersklnes came to town.
It was now several days since he had been
at his chambers In the Temple, and he was
thinking of spending an hour or two In them
this very morning, as Letty had ordered him
not to ride w^ith her or even to show himself
2l8 A GAME OF CHANCE.
In the Row, and he always obeyed her Im-
perious commands. And what a glorious
morning It was for a ride. It was very hard
that he could not enjoy It with her, and It
never occurred to him that she would have
secretly rejoiced over his disobedience If he
had ventured to appear without her per-
He excused his absurd submission to her
whims by the plea that he was afraid of
frightening her away from him, If he show^ed
that he had a will of his own and could use
it. He did not deceive himself about her ;
he believed that she liked him, but to his
sorrow he knew she did not love him, and he
fondly Imagined that she could not long
remain Indifferent to a man who worshipped
her with such slavish devotion as he ex-
hibited day after day. And yet, somehow,
the slavish w^orshlp seemed to increase, but
the answerlno^ love did not awake. Then
he said to himself, '' She will love me
NO. 200, queen's gate TERRACE. 219
when we are married. I must wait till
He was thinking of her now as he sat
alone over his breakfast. Twice only had
she danced with him the night before, and
other men had scribbled their names on her
programme for dance after dance with an
amount of effrontery that he envied but could
not Imitate. She had not been kind to him
the whole evening. The flowers he had sent
her were not pretty, she said, so she did not
wear them ; and he had no business to stand
where she found him, watching for her
when she came Into the room. It was bad
taste on his part. In short, he could not
please by word or deed. She flouted him ;
she teased him ; she said sharp things to
him ; but she could not provoke him to
quarrel with her, and she declared to herself
when she got home, that she could not and
would not marry such a good-tempered, sub-
missive man for the whole world.
2 20 A GAME OF CHANCE.
His letters were numerous, but not very
interesting. Some of them had been for-
warded from his chambers, and among them,
as he turned them over, was one that arrested
his attention. It was eight years at least
since he had seen that bold dashing hand,
although at one time it had been familiar
enough. Of course, it was but natural that
the writing should recall the writer, and a
faint flush rose to his face as he turned the
letter over, and looked at the elaborate blue
gold and red monogram on the envelope.
" How completely I had forgotten her," he
said. He opened the letter with the air of a
man who expected to find something dis-
agreeable inside, and read as follows —
" No. 200, Queen's Gate Terrace.
'' My dear Mr. Otwav,
" I hope you have not quite forgot-
ten me, but I am afraid you have, as you
seem to have taken no trouble to find out my
address ; and yet you must know what a
NO. 200, queen's gate TERRACE. 22 1
pleasure it would be for me to see you ao-aln.
I am in great trouble, and T want your
advice. Can you come and lunch with me on
Thursday next at two o'clock ? My husband
is out of town.
'' Yours sincerely,
" Caroline Ogilvey.'*
'' Mine sincerely, Caroline Ogilvey !" he
repeated. " No ; not mine, I am happy to
say, and not very sincere either, unless eight
years spent with ' Moneybags Ogilvey,' as
we used to call him, have changed you very
much. And eight years ago I fancied my-
self in love with you, and I did not find out
how little I really cared until I heard of your
marriage. In trouble is she .'^ And she
wants me to help her. Well, perhaps she
is, poor woman. I am not vain enough
to suppose that she wants to get me
into her toils again." He went to his
writing-table and scribbled a hasty note, as
22 2 A GAME OF CHANCE.
" Mv DEAR Mrs. Ogilvey,
" I have not forgotten you, and I
am sorry to hear you are in trouble. Expect
me to luncheon to-morrow at two.
" Herbert Otwav."
He pushed the note aside, as soon as it
was wTitten, and, opening a drawer, took out
a cabinet photograph of Letty Erskine in her
riding-dress, which, strange to say, she had
had taken to gratify a desire of his, and fell
to rapt contemplation of the sweet face he
loved. Needless to say, he knew every line
by heart already, but was he ever tired of
gazing at those saucy laughing eyes, and the
exquisite turn of the throat and chin ? The
likeness was an admirable one, as the artist
had, happily, caught one of his sitter's most
bewitching expressions, and Otw^ay was such
a miser about the picture that he longed to
order the negative to be destroyed. How
Letty would have admired him, if he had had
NO. 200, QUEEN S GATE TERRACE. 223
the audacity to say that he, and he only,
should possess a copy of that particular
photograph ; but he did nothing of the kind,
and, with the most amiable liberality, she
dispensed them far and wide among her
It was with his mind still full of Letty's
charms, that Otway at length put his reply to
j\Irs. Ogilvey into an envelope, and rang the
bell for his servant to take it to the post
without delay ; then he dressed and went
down to his chambers.
He dined at Halkin Street the same
evening. There was a large dinner-party, and
he hoped to sit next to Letty, but she was at
the other end of the table, laughing, talking
and enjoying herself with some man Otw^ay
had never seen before. He had known her,
now in many moods, but he found her in a
new one on this evening ; she was in the
wildest spirits, but she scarcely spoke to him ;
he followed her about, as usual, and once or
2 24 A GAME OF CHANCE.
twice she told him to fetch her fan, or her
handkerchief, or her gloves — anything she
chanced to miss — and she took them with
just a careless word of thanks.
At last, when he was about to say good-
night, she suddenly became most gracious and
gentle ; laid her hand upon his arm, asked him
to ride with her in the morning, and then to
come to luncheon.
He accepted for the ride, but said that,
most unfortunately, he was engaged to lunch
with a friend.
" Ah !" and Miss Letty arched her pretty
eyebrows, "I knew that when I asked you."
" You knew !" he repeated ; ''you guessed,
" No, I knew ; but you need not ask me
how I knew, for I am not going to tell
As usual, he entreated, coaxed and im-
plored, but without success. Letty only
laughed In his face.
NO. 200, QUEENS GATE TERRACE. 225
''You know I would give It up if I could,"
" Of course you would," she answered, " but
you cannot desert old friends for new, can you?"
When he called next morning to ride with
her, he got a message to say she had changed
her mind and gone shopping instead, so he
had to spend another morning without her,
and consequently he was not in the best of
spirits when, shortly before two o'clock, he
presented himself at 200, Queen's Gate
Terrace, and asked for Mrs. Ogilvey.
He was shown into a pretty drawing-room ;
the light was subdued and the perfume of
flowers was oppressive. Otway felt half-
suffocated, and yet he had expected to find
Mrs. Ogilvey's drawing-room dimly lighted
and highly scented. He was left alone for
ten minutes, and, strange to say, his thoughts
went back, not to Letty Erskine, but to the
woman whom he had not seen for eight
years. He was one or two-and-twenty then
VOL. I. Q
2 26 A GAME OF CHANCE.
and she was, at least, five years his senior,
and he had fancied himself In love ! How
vividly he recalled the bitterness of his re-
proaches when she told him she was about
to marry the rich stockbroker, Christopher
Ogilvey, familiarly known as '* Moneybags
Ogilvey," and how little he had cared when,
after a month or two, he read the announce-
ment of the marriage In the Times.
He had made an ass of himself while his
fancy lasted, and Caroline was kind ; he re-
membered the kindness well enough. The
woman herself was very handsome; he had
not forgotten that, either ; her figure was
magnificent, and her voice, if he was not
mistaken, was one of her great attractions —
rich, soft and low. Yes, it was all three ; he
heard it behind him now, when \}i\^. frou-frou
of her gown over the carpet ceased. But
her address surprised him —
*' You have come," she said, "but why did
you not answer my note ?"
A woman's folly.
''I ANSWERED it Immediately," he said, "and
my servant took it to the post."
" This is very odd, for it never reached me."
Otway thought it extremely odd. 'T must
inquire about it," he said, ''for it was un-
doubtedly written, and posted so far as I
" Well, you are here, and that is the chief
thing after all," she said, as she held out her
pretty white hand to him a second time.
'* Sit down and let us see what we have to
say to one another after all these years.
When I saw you last you were a very charm-
ing — boy ; now, I have no doubt, you are a
very charming man."
2 28 A GAME OF CHANCE.
''Charming or not, I am a man who is
sorry to hear you are in trouble," he said, as
he seated himself beside her on a couch. " I
hope it is nothing very serious."
She gave a little impatient sigh, looked at
Otway for an instant, and then let her eyes
fall again. "You must judge for yourself
when I tell you about it — ^ after luncheon.
Can you stay a little while with me ? We are
not likely to be interrupted."
*' Yes," he said, " I can stay."
"How do you think I am looking?" was
her next remark. " It is eight long years —
long to me, at least — since you saw me
last. Do I look much older ? You need not
be afraid to tell me the truth."
"There is very little change in you," he
answered, "but," and he looked round the
room and smiled, "you know I cannot see
very distinctly in this light."
"You are improved ; I have light enough
to see that," she returned, in the same
A WOMAN S FOLLY. 229
matter-of-fact tone she had used from the
beginning; "but then, as I said just now,
eight years ago you were Httle more than
a boy. I read all about your doings in
Stoneshire, and was disappointed when you
gave up the contest. I said at once, ' Who
is she ?' and before long I saw something
about a young lady whose life you saved. Is
she very charming ? But of course you do
not want to be questioned about her, and
I have other things to think of."
Luncheon was at the moment announced,
and Mrs. Ogilvey preceded her guest down-
stairs. In the fuller lio^ht of the dininor-room
he saw that she was considerably altered ;
she had grown stouter, and her beauty now
owed more to art than nature, paint and
powder being liberally used. The face was
handsome still, but it was that of a woman
who led a restless and worried life.
But her manner was bright and animated,
and she made herself very agreeable, talking
230 A GAME OF CHANCE.
of books, music and pictures in a light and
pleasant manner. She made more than one
attempt to bring the conversation round to
Otway himself, but seeing that he was not
disposed to be communicative, she let the
subject drop with some light remark that pre-
vented any awkwardness.
In his turn he tried to get her to speak of
herself and her husband ; but, beyond the
fact that she had no children and that Mr.
Ogilvey was then in Paris, he learnt nothing.
They went back to the shaded drawing-room
as soon as luncheon was over, and when
they were once more seated side by side,
she laid her hand upon his arm, and looking
into his face said, " Now, old friend, for my
He thought it possible that he was about
to be asked to help her through some money
difficulty, but he soon found out his mistake.
" Have you ever met or heard of Count
Henri de Flavelle .^" she said.
A WOMAN S FOLLY. 23 1
*' I met him about two years ago at "
and Otway mentioned a country-house at
which he had been staying. " Is he a friend
of yours ?"
" He was an intimate friend of mine ; but
do you not know that he is dead ? He com-
mitted suicide last autumn at Monte Carlo.
We — my husband and I — were there at the
" I never heard of it. I knew he was a
reckless gambler, and also " He stopped
short and glanced at his companion.
"Yes ;" she said, putting her own interpre-
tation upon his sudden pause, "he was a
reputed * lady-killer,' as well." Then, after a
moment or two of silence, she went on in
a defiant voice, "He and I w^ere very inti-
mate ; he was a constant visitor at this house,
and I think he used to borrow money
from my husband. But, after a time, Mr.
Ogilvey refused to receive him any more,
and he desired me to hold no communication
232 A GAME OF CHANCE.
with him. You probably guess I did not
'*Yes;" Otway said. ''I thought it prob-
''We met when we could, and w^here we
could, and I more than once lent him
money. It was not always easy for me
to get a sum large enough to be of any use
to him, but I am not easily baffled when I
make up my mind to do a thing, and on
several occasions I manaofed to eive him a
tolerable amount. I can see plainly enough
in your face what you think of all this, but it
is quite possible that you wrong me. Henri
and I were friends — nothing more. How-
ever, I am not going to defend myself or to
set up a plea of any kind ; the poor man
is dead, and it is only since his death that
I have had any cause to regret our intimacy.
He had a confidential servant, who for some
reason or other hated me, and this man is, he
says, in possession of all his late master's
A WOMAN S FOLLY. 233
private papers and letters. Within the past
few weeks he has begun a system of perse-
cution of me which threatens to become more
than I can bear. He says he will go to my
husband if I do not give him a large sum of
money, and I am afraid to put myself so
completely in his power."
"And suppose he carries out his threat,
and goes to your husband, what then ? Had
this Count Henri any letters of yours ? Used
you to correspond with him ?"
" He had no letters of mine. Some
communications passed between us in cypher
■ — his to me are destroyed — on the subject of
the loans I mentioned to you just now, and
in one or two of those I sent to him I made
an appointment for a meeting. The very
last of those cyphers was written at Monte
Carlo, a few days before he shot himself,
and it is just possible that it was not des-
" I suppose this valet of his has no key to
234 A GAME OF CHANCE.
the cypher — the Count would not have let
him into the secret ?"
" Certainly not ; if he has any of my notes
he cannot read them, and the envelopes were
addressed by the Count himself. I always
had a supply of addressed envelopes by me,
and his to me were addressed by me. We
were very cautious on account of Mr.
"Then, so far as I can see, you have
nothing to fear. If the cypher was known to
you and the Count only, you can let this
fellow do his worst."
"Ah! unfortunately it is known to one
other : the man who taught it to me."
"And he is ?"
" My husband," replied Mrs. Ogilvey.
" He gave it to me, and he can read it."
Otway looked grave. " There is only one
thing to be done," he said; "you must not
let this man see that you are afraid of
him. Do not give him any money, and
A WOMAN S FOLLY. 235
refuse to hold any communication with him ;
it is quite possible that a bold front will
dismay him, and he will make up his mind
that the papers in his possession are of no
"Nor are they, in one way. They prove
that I disobeyed my husband, and gave Henri
money that I got from Mr. Ogllvey for
another purpose, and if he should find out
that I deceived him " The fear of
detection was In her voice ; the shame of
detection was in her face, as she spoke ; and
Otway, although he felt contempt for her
weakness and folly, was constrained to feel
pity as well. Detection to her meant the
loss of her husband's trust; and yet, for the
poor gratification of helping such a man as
the Count, she had risked all that was most
valuable to her in the world.
He left his place beside her, and began to
walk up and down the room, and the ques-
tion he asked himself was this : " Why should
236 A GAME OF CHANCE.
this woman be saved ?" But the thought of
Letty, the sweet pure girl he so passionately
loved, softened his heart towards the unhappy
creature who sat there before him self-
condemned, but not guilty of aught save
folly. He would save her if he could.
" You despise me ! I see it in your face,"
she said, piteously, when he came back to
her. '' But, perhaps, if you knew all, you
would pity me a little as well. My husband
and I have nothing in common, and he is
very cold to me sometimes, but never
ungenerous. But if — if I can get out of this
scrape, I mean to turn over a new leaf — I
" There is no way out of it, but the way I
spoke of just now. You must put on a bold
front. Refuse to give the man any money ;
tell him that you know he has no letters or
papers that can compromise you, and then
wait for his next move. If we ascertain,
beyond a doubt, that he has the cypher In his
A WOMAN S FOLLY. 237
possession, we must, I suppose, buy them at
all hazards ; but my own opinion is, that he
has nothing to show."
" The risk is something terrible," she said,
as she wrung her hands together. "I lie
awake at night and think of it, and then I
seem to see poor Henri's face before me.
Ah ! poor fellow, he loved me so hopelessly."
The face of her companion grew very
stern as she was speaking. If Letty had
seen him then, she would never say again
that he was always soft and yielding. " I do
not want to hear anything about Count
Henri," he said, shortly.
"And I was just going to show you his
picture," she answered. "Must you go?
Give me another half-hour ; I feel that I have
a great deal more to say, and one thing
I must tell you, as it is important. Soon
after we were married, my husband gave me
a very beautiful and valuable diamond star ;
it was so arranged that I could wear it either
2^8 A GAME OF CHANCE.
as a pendant round my neck or in my hair.
On one occasion when I wanted money for
the Count, I had the ornament copied for
a few p3unds in French paste, and when
it was done I gave the real stones to Henri.
I very often wore the sham pendant before
Mr. Ogilvey, and he never detected anything
wrong ; but more than three years ago I
either lost it or it was stolen from me, and I
am in daily dread of being asked why I
never wear it. I dare not tell my husband
it is gone, lest he should recover it through
the police, and find out the imposition."
" You say it was lost or stolen," said
Otway. '' If stolen, of course the thief
thought the stones were real."
" I suspect the maid I had at the time took
it — she did not know it was paste — -but I
could not accuse her without lettinQ^ Mr.
Ogilvey know, so I simply said nothing.
She was about leaving me at the time, too."
" And where is she now ?"
A WOMAN S FOLLY. 239
" She went with her new mistress, an
officer's daughter, to India, and she is
probably married by this, as she is very
"What was her name ?"
" Rossitur — Bella Rossitur. She came
from Stillingfort, in Stoneshire."
LETTY AND HER SLAVE.
It was past five o'clock when Otway left
Queen's Gate Terrace. He had certainly
not enjoyed his visit to his old love ; the
history of her " trouble," as she called it, had
revolted him, and the necessity he was under
to offer worldly - wise advice went sorely
against the grain. But he consoled himself
by hoping that her escape, if she did escape
the consequences of her folly, might be a
life-long lesson to her.
Refusing her offer to " drop " him some-
where in her Victoria, he took a hansom as
far as Albert Gate, and then walked down
the Row towards Hyde Park Corner. Half
way, he came upon Sir John Erskine, with
LETTY AND HER SLAVE. 24 1
Letty beside him, seated in a mail phaeton,
which was drawn up close to the rails.
Letty's bright eyes were roving over the
crowd, and she did not see Otway until he
was close beside her.
''Ah, Otway!" cried Sir John, ''you are
the very man we want. I was wondering
what had become of you. Get up here and
take the reins, will you ? I see some people
I want to speak to over yonder, and you can
take Letty home when she's had enough of
Nothing loth, Otway took the vacant
seat and the reins. " Shall we drive round ?"
"Certainly not," replied Letty, promptly.
" I like to see the people. But I do not
object to one turn ; it is rather early. I
have not seen half-a-dozen people I know
Otway turned the horses into the road, and
they were soon bowling away towards the
VOL. L R
242 A GAME OF CHA^'CE.
Memorial. " Well ?" he said, looking down
'' Well ?" she answered, looking up at him.
" I hope you enjoyed your luncheon with
" Can it be possible," he cried, " that I
addressed the letter that she never got to
you ? That explains everything."
" Except your stupidity," said Letty. " Is
this the letter?" and she took a note from
her pocket. " Outside is ' Miss Erskine,
Halkin Street ;' inside you tell some Mrs.
Ogilvey that you have not forgotten her, and
that you will lunch with her at two o'clock.
Who is Mrs. Ogilvey ?"
" A lady I knew many years ago, when I
was about two-and-twenty."
" Is she a nice person ?"
" I don't know," said Otway.
"You are an old friend ; you lunched with
her to-day, and you do not know whether she
is nice or not. I call that absurd."
LETTV AND HER SLAVE. 243
" I do not admire her particularly," said
" Did you ever admire her ?"
"Very much," answered Otway, "in my
salad days — eight years ago."
"Eight years ago I was only ten," put in
Letty. " And have you not seen her since ?"
" I have not seen her since her mar-
riage until to-day. She wrote and asked me
to call upon her."
" Because she is in trouble," said Letty.
" I am sorry for the poor woman. I am
not going to ask you what the trouble is
because I know if I did you would tell me,
and that would not be right."
" I am afraid I could not tell you," Otway
" Oh, yes, you would, if I insisted ;" Letty
interrupted, confidently; "you know you
never refuse me anything I ask, and if I
said I must know all about this trouble of
your friend, ]\Irs. Ogilvey, you would tell
2 44 A GAME OF CHANCE.
me before we got round to the Memorial
"It Is very hard to refuse you anything,
my darling," murmured Otway, tenderly, as
he gazed with all a lover's rapture into her
eyes. And yet, even as he said the words,
he was conscious of a bitter stab of dis-
appointment, for not the faintest trace of
jealousy could he detect in her manner. A
girl who was very much In love would surely
show some annoyance or pique at this sud-
den renewal of intercourse between her lover
and his old friend.
" You must really be more careful about
your letters In future," Letty went on. In her
sprightly manner, and Ignoring altogether
the fond words just uttered in her ear.
" Suppose an epistle, with something very
secret in It, were to come to me by mistake,
what would you do ? And, when men meet
their old loves again, do they not generally
feel a little sentimental and unhappy ? They
LETTY AND HER SLAVE. 245
always do in books, so if you want to be
sentimental or unhappy about this Mrs.
Ogilvey, I beg you will not hesitate on my
'' As if you did not know that you are the
only woman in the world to me," broke in
Otway, with passionate reproach.
" There ! Do not drive quite so fast, if
you please. Everyone is staring at us, I
really mean what I say. You must feel more
for an old friend than you do for a new one.
I know I should. Is this trouble of hers
likely to last long ? You will have to lunch
with her very often, I suppose ?"
" Not oftener than I choose," Otway
As he was speaking, Mrs. Ogilvey drove
past them. She bowed to Otway, and stared
very hard at his companion.
" Now you have seen her," he said,
'' what do you think of her ?"
'* She drives a very pretty pair of horses,
246 A GAME OF CHANCE.
and she will probably known me again,'*
replied Letty. " Did you tell her we were
going to be married ?"
*' Did you not desire me, on pain of your
severe displeasure, not to tell anyone ?"
" Certainly I did, but I never expected
you to obey me," she returned. " I must
say you are the most oppressively obedient
man I ever met ; but perhaps you do not
want people to know you are engaged ?"
" I should like the whole world to know
it," cried Otway ; ''that I might be envied
by the whole word for my good fortune."
" Then, for goodness' sake, tell the whole
world directly," cried Letty, pettishly ; ''I
am sure I don't care."
*' And may I say that we are to be married
very soon ?"
*' If you like ; it is all the same to me.
No, do not go round again, and do not
draw up anywhere ; I am tired. Take me
home ; I want to show you Jack's last letter.
LETTY AND HER SLAVE. 247
I had such a jolly letter from him this
The drawing-rooms at Halkin Street were
empty ; Miss Lambton was out alone. Letty
threw off her bonnet and began to fan herself.
'' Isn't it hot.^" she said.
'' Allow me," said Otway, as he took the fan
from her ; but instead of using it, he put his
arm round her and tried to draw her to him.
''One kiss, my darling," he said.
"No, no, no!" she cried, breaking away
from him. " How many times must I tell
you that I will not have any nonsense of that
kind ? I can't think what pleasure you find
in it. Do go away to the other end of
the room and be sensible. You have made
me a great deal hotter than I was before, and
I think you ought to know by this time that
I do not like to be kissed."
" I know by this time that you are very
unkind to me," he said. " You treat Orion
better than you treat me."
248 A GAME OF CHANCE.
*' Now, was there ever such a man ?" cried
Letty, appealing to the furniture. " I pro-
mised to marry him simply because he said
it would break his heart if I refused him, and
yet he is not satisfied."
She walked away and sat down, looking
the picture of injured dignity. He followed
much too humbly, as was his wont. '' Say
you forgive me," he said.
She looked up at him with a glance that
was half-comical but wholly unresponsive to
the appeal in his eyes. " I declare," she
cried, " if you kneel to me I have done with
you for evermore. Have I not told you, a
hundred times at least, that I cannot bear to
see a man on his knees, and yet you will do it?
There ; go and bring me that little writing-
case from the table yonder. Jack's letter is
in it. Now, sit down at a respectful dis-
tance and listen while I read."
Mastering his discomfiture and disappoint-
ment as best he could, Otway sat down and
LETTY AND HER SLAVE. 249
listened while Letty read her brother's letter
As soon as she had finished, he said, " I
knew I had heard the name Rossltur before.
Is it not very odd ? Mrs. Ogllvey told me
to-day that some years ago — It would be three
or four, I suppose — she had a maid called
Bella Rossltur, who went to India. I sup-
pose It Is the same person ; Rossltur Is not a
very common name."
" Common or not, It Is a name I am very
tired of," cried Letty. " Jack never writes
a letter In which she Is not mentioned, and
now your Mrs. Ogllvey knows her. Did she
like her ?"
" Well — not particularly, I think."
" She Is not connected with the trouble. Is
" No, not direcdy. Not at all, Indeed."
" You look so frightened," cried Letty,
laughing, " I believe you are afraid I am
going to bribe you to let out Mrs. Ogilvey's
250 A GAME OF CHANCE.
secrets. Do you think I could not do
" There Is nothing In the world I would
not do for you, Letty, If only " he
The door had opened to admit Miss
'' Here Is Aunt Louise," cried Letty.
** Now for some tea. And what's the news,
" I have just met Dr. Murray and his
bride," she said. " They did not go to the
Lakes after all."
C H A P T E^R X X .
A FEW days later Otway was on his way
to call upon the Rector of Little Centre
Bridge at the Westminster Palace Hotel
when he met that gentleman at the entrance
" Coming to see me, were you ? And I
was just going to look you up ; you are close
by, are you not? Our [friends in Halkin
Street have taken my wife off to shop in the
Grove, wherever that is, and I was told I was
*' Rather hard upon you, eh ?" laughed
Otway. "But if men will come to London
for their honeymoons they must take the
252 A GAME OF CHANCE.
" We fixed upon the Lakes, you know, but
Mrs. Murray coaxed me to stay in London
for a few days to see the sights ; and if a
man does not humour his wife in the honey-
moon, when is he to do It ?"
•'Very true," said Otway, absently.
'' Any time fixed for your marriage ?" in-
quired the Rector, " I was in hopes it would
be this summer ; I hate long engagements
" I do not want a long engagement," said
Otway, "but Sir John says the marriage is
not to be until next spring."
" And what does Letty say ?"
"Oh, she says nothing!"
" Is she not looking handsome?" cried the
Rector, enthusiastically. " I never saw such
eyes in a woman's head ! You are a lucky
fellow, Otway. Oh ! we go up In a lift,
do we ? I don't know that I fancy this sort
of thing very much myself, but I suppose
one Q^ets used to it. You must let me brlnof
ROSSITUR AGAIN. 2^2
my wife to see you. She would enjoy going
up in this thing immensely."
"You must bring her to lunch," said
Otw^ay. '' I should like her to see where
Dr. Murray spent some time examining
the bits of fine old China and the few
admirable pictures that adorned Otway's
little drawing-room, and then the two men sat
clown for a chat.
" And have you given up all idea of enter-
ing Parliament since we treated you so badly
down in Stoneshire ?" the Rector asked. "In
the mere matter of talking, our friend Sir
John has not clone much to distinguish him-
self, has he ? I believe in his heart he is
longing to be back at the Chase, pottering
about the home farm, and going into the town
to hear the news."
"He certainly does not care very much for
town life," said Otway. " None of them do,
for that matter."
2 54 -'^ GAME OF CHANCE.
"Oh, Letty likes it, I think."
''Well, it's all new to her; but she
is very fond of the country. She has
never had a regular season before, you
" You will give up this little nest up here
when you marry, of course ?"
" Yes. I am in treaty for a house she
likes in Rutland Gate. All places are pretty
much the same to me, but I want her to be
" I am afraid you spoil her, my boy. Take
" I feel as if I could not do half enough
for her," cried Otway. " She is the very
light of my life. I do not think it would be
possible for any man to love a woman more
than I love her, and she just likes me pretty
well, that's all."
" Oh, never mind ; liking is a very good
thing to start with, and it will all come right
by and by. But don't you give up to her
ROSSITUR AGAIN. 255
too much ; for my own part, I think women
like a master."
" My dear doctor, it is early days for you
to have found that out," laughed Otway.
" Oh ; I knew it years ago," replied the
Rector. "But now I want to ask you about
this marriage of Jack Erskine's. Sir John
says very little, but I think he is cut up about
" Well, you see, he wanted Jack to marry
some girl at home, and he cannot quite take
to the notion of a daughter-in-law he has
'' And, between ourselves, Otway," said
the Rector, " I am afraid Mr. Jack has made
a mistake. It may turn out all right, and I
hope it will ; but, I confess I have my
'' Why ? Do you know anything of the
young lady ; anything against her, I mean ?
Her half-sister is married to my brother, but
I know nothing at all about /ler.''
250 A GAME OF CHANCE.
''And I know nothing actually against her,
but not much In her favour. It so happens
that a nephew of mine, Frank Murray, has a
very good post In Calcutta ; he came home
and married an uncommonly nice girl with
some money, just before Jack Ersklne's regi-
ment went out. Well, you know, Mrs. John
Ersklne's father, Colonel Gordon, had a staff
appointment In Calcutta when his daughter
went out to him, and my nephew, Franks and
his wife, being In the military set, saw a good
deal of Miss Amy Gordon, and heard a great
deal more. At that time Jack Ersklne was
with his regiment at Lucknow, I think, and
he did not meet her until some time after her
campaign In Calcutta."
'' But he knew her," said Otway, "for they
went out In the same ship."
" I know that ; but he had lost sight of
her. She was very much run after In Cal-
cutta, Frank told me, as she was pretty and
lively ; but I hear she was such an outrageous
ROSSITUR AGAIN. 257
flirt that before very long, men used to say
very hard things of her ; but still, they all
amused themselves. It got out, after a time,
that she was looking out for a man with
money, and that her father was at his wit's
end for fear she should get into some
" Poor Sir John !" said Otway. " I hope
he knows nothing of all this."
" Not from me. I would not tell him for the
world ; but you have not heard the worst yet.
It seems this Miss Gordon brought out a very
good-looking maid with her from England,
and this girl, of whom, strange to say, I
know something. Is apparently as great a
flirt as her mistress, and the tricks these two
used to play, Frank says, were simply dis-
graceful. He acknowledges that he does not
believe half the stories that were told about
them, but those he knows to be true are quite
bad enough. The maid used to dress up as
the mistress, and the mistress as the maid —
VOL. I. S
258 A GAME OF CHANCE.
there is a sort of likeness between them, I
beheve — and then the maid would make a
fool of some poor fellow, who fancied that
Miss Gordon was in love with him, and the
story goes that, on one occasion, Miss
Gordon, passing herself off as Rossitur, had
much ado to get away from some young
fellow who wanted her — the maid, you under-
stand — to run away with him there and then.
My nephew says he does not believe that
story, as Miss Gordon was always much too
cautious to run any risk ; but it only shows
how people have been talking about her."
" Let us hope," said Otway, " that as she
has married a rich man she will turn over
a new leaf and make Jack a good wife. Do
you know that the^maid is married also, to
Jack's body - servant, a soldier in his regi-
" You don't say so ? Rather a come-down
for her, I should say, after all her flirtations
with his betters. Well, I should be sorry to
ROSSITUR AGAIN. 259
let my wife keep such a woman in her
''But Letty tells me that her sister-in-law
would not part with Rossitur on any con-
" Exactly. I hope it is not wrong of me
to say that it looks very much as if the maid
had some hold over her mistress. I hope
most sincerely, for Jack's sake, it is not the
case, and that all the stories about her are
exaggerated ; but Frank says there is no
doubt whatsoever that Miss Gordon was very
much in love with a remarkably handsome
and charming young Frenchman, whom she
used to meet in the very best set in Calcutta,
and that she would have married him, poor
as he v/as, if her father had not set his face
against the match."
" And what has become of him ?"
" I hear he succeeded, quite unexpectedly,
to a very fine property, shortly after Miss
Gordon's marriage, but where he is now I do
2 6o A GAME OF CHANCE.
not know. My nephew says he Is as nice a
fellow as he ever met, and extremely hand-
some. I forget his name."
*' I am sorry to hear all this," said Otway.
** It does not promise well for poor Jack
Ersklne's future happiness, and he seems so
wrapped up In his wife."
*' Oh ; they may get on very well. Depend
upon It, she knows the value of her position
as the future Lady Ersklne and mistress of
the Chase, and she will not make a fool of
" But she may make her husband very
miserable, all the same," said Otway. '' By
the way, you said you knew something about
that woman Rossltur. It was only a few
days ago I heard that, just before she went
to India, she had been maid to an old friend
" She comes from Stilllngfort," said the
Rector, " and I was curate-In-charge there a
good many years ago. The Rosslturs are
ROSSITUR AGAIN. 26 I
well known in the place ; for generations,
from father to son, they have held one of the
largest farms from Lord Stillingfort. When
I was there, this girl Bella was not more
than seven or eight ; she had a sister a year
or two older, and a baby brother ; the girls
used to come to my school. I had not been
In the place more than three months when
there was a terrible scandal ! Mrs. Rossitur,
who was a beautiful young woman, ran away
with a man who used to come down to shoot
at the manor — a relation of Lord Stillingfort
— and the poor farmer was so broken-hearted
he talked of selling the place and emigrating.
But he stayed on, and who brought up his
girl I don't know, for I left the place when
Bella was about eleven or twelve. I do not
remember her very distinctly, but she was a
pretty child, and there was a sturdy little
chap in the choir, a boy about fourteen or
fifteen, who used to be always about with
her. His father was a bailiff, or something,
262 A GAME OF CHANCE.
on the estate ; a man with a grand bass voice
—he was in the choir too. I remember the
boy very well— Httle Georgy Pottinger."
'* You don't say so !" cried Otway. '' Why,
that is the name of the man she has married !
She is Mrs. Pottinger."
THE LETTERS IN CYPHER.
A MONTH passed away. Dr. Murray and
his bride, having spent a fortnight In what
he called " wild dissipation " In London,
ended their honeymoon at the Lakes, and
were now settled at home In the Rectory of
Little Centre Bridge, and Alary Hamil-
ton, the ex-governess of the Ladles' College,
found herself of some importance In the
community among whom she had been a
nonentity before. Mrs. and Miss Dysart-
Smlth had the pleasure of seeing all the
visitors she received, and of hearing of all
the Invitations that were sent to the newly-
Mrs. Crump, of the fancy shop, who knew
264 A GAME OF CHANCE.
everything, and, moreover, was good at in-
venting, declared that the Rector was quite
another man since he married, and had
actually been in her shop twice since he
came home — once with his wife and again
without her — to match some knitting-silk ;
and it was nonsense for Mrs. Verity to be
positive that Dr. and Mrs. Murray had not
been invited to spend a week at Stillingfort,
for Mrs. Crump knew it for a fact ; and
the Rector was to preach, too, in the old
church that had been his when he was in
the parish as curate-in-charge.
Little particles of this local gossip were
blown to the Erskines in town, through the
medium of Miss Masham's amusing letters.
"I do not know what we should do without
our special correspondent," Letty used to say;
*' I like to hear what is going on at home.
Yes, Little Centre Bridge is home, and
always will be home to me." This clause
was added when Otway ventured to hope
THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 265
that another place might be her real home
before very long.
" I have nothing In the world to say
against Rutland Gate except that I hate It,"
she continued, In her pretty, aggressive way.
"That Is, I hate having houses on each side
of me. But It does not really matter, as I
mean to spend nine months at least out of
every year at the Chase."
Otway flattered himself with the hope that
Letty did not mean all she said ; and he con-
tinued, with the rest of her world, to pet and
spoil her to such an extent that she would
have been more than mortal if she had not
begun to imagine that her power over him
was unlimited. But there was more beneath
that gay, frivolous exterior than even he
suspected, and he never guessed at the
struggle — a struggle that ended memorably
for both of them — that went on In her mind
as the time fixed for her marriage drew
266 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Comparatively speaking it was distant still,
but now that the following March had been
named and agreed to by Sir John, she began
seriously to ask herself if she really cared
enough for Otway to be his wife. It seemed
as if she could not make up her mind about
her feelinofs towards him ; she liked to ride
or drive, walk or talk with him, but she
never felt in the least angry or jealous when
he rode or drove or talked with other women ;
and when he became the adoring and demon-
strative lover she was puzzled and frightened,
and sometimes a little ashamed as well of the
feeling of repugnance that cams upon her !
" And it is not that I dislike him," she
would say to herself, " but he is too humble.
If he would stand at one end of the room
and order me to come to him from the other,
it would make all the difference. He would
soon get what he wants then ; but when he
trots about after me, begging with his eyes,
if not with his tongue, for a little notice, I
THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 267
feel SO angry I am tempted to run away and
never to speak to him again. If he goes on
in the same babyish manner after we are
married something dreadful will happen ; I
know it will ; and yet, he is so very charm-
ing in many ways, I could love him with all my
heart if he would but treat me a little worse."
This was how she argued with herself day
It was the middle of July before Otway
heard anything more of Mrs. Ogilvey and her
*' trouble." He had seen her several times,
and she said nothing had happened, and
that she hoped to hear no more of the man
and his threats. She introduced Otway to
her husband, and he dined at Queen's Gate
Terrace, and w^as present at a big "crush"
one evening. Moreover, Mrs. Ogilvey heard
of his engagement, and gave him very cordial
congratulations, but he did not, in spite of
the many hints she gave him, and the many
opportunities that were offered to him, keep
2 68 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Up either very familiar or very constant
intercourse with his old friend.
He was surprised one morning to get a
letter from her, asking him for an appoint-
ment at his chambers. " I have something
to tell you," she said, *' and we might be
Accordingly he appointed a day and an
hour, and she was punctual to a minute.
He had not seen her for fully a fortnight, and
he was struck by the extraordinary change in
her appearance. In the first place she was
dressed entirely in black, and, as she generally
appeared in gay colours, he scarcely recog-
nised her at first. She was also very pale — -
almost haggard-looking — he thought, and her
eyes were dull and red, as if she had been
" I am afraid you are not very well," he
said, kindly, as he placed a chair for her.
''Why did you not let me come to you?"
" I scarcely know," she answered, " except
THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 269
that I have a curious nervous sort of feelino-
over me that would not allow me to speak
freely, even in my own drawing-room. Not
that there are spies about me," and she
laughed rather hysterically, ''but I simply
could not do it, that is the truth. You said
just now you were afraid I am not well ;
I suppose I look ill, but I feel well enough ;.
only dazed and stupid, as if I had had a blow,
or just escaped a great danger."
"Has that man been persecuting you
again ? Perhaps you had better let me take
him in hand ; those sort of fellows always
bully women." And then Otway was surprised
to see the face of his companion contract as if
from a spasm of pain ; she bit her under lip
and held it tightly as if she were forcing back
a cry, and two great tears suddenly rolled
down her cheeks.
*' You are very kind," she added, presently,,
" but you need not take any more trouble.
He has done his worst — his very worst."
.270 A GAME OF CHANCE.
" I am sorry " Otway began.
'' Oh ; he has not hurt me," she inter-
rupted. ''At least, not as he Intended, or as
we feared ; but he has given me a wound
that has cut me to the very heart, and taught
me a lesson I hope never to forget." She
sat up in her chair as she spoke, with a
sudden lightening of the gloom upon her
face, but she looked angry, hurt and mortified
all at once.
** But I must not stay here too long," she
continued ; "and it is but fair to you to tell
you all. You are aware that for some time
after his first threats I heard nothing of the
man, and I hoped my refusal to treat with
him had silenced him ; but, about ten days
ago, he called at Queen's Gate Terrace and
asked to see me. I refused. Then he wrote
a most Insolent letter, and threatened, if I
did not at once comply with his demand and
send him a large sum of money, to communi-
cate with Mr. Ogilvey. It was in this
THE LETTERS IN CVPHER. 271
letter he let me know, for the first time, that
the papers in his possession were my letters
in cypher to his late master. I sent no reply
as you advised, but I confess I waited in an
agony of suspense for his next move. He
soon wrote again, more insolently than before.
If he did not receive five hundred pounds
for the cyphers he would give them to Mr.
Ogilvey himself without delay. I replied
that I did not believe he had either letters
or papers of any kind of mine in his posses-
sion. He wrote again, offering to show me
the letters in presence of any friend I chose
to name. I made no reply. Then he began
to hang about the house for a couple of days,
and once, when Mr. Ogilvey and I were
getting into the carriage on our way to a
dinner - party, he spoke to me and uttered
some insolent threat. My husband threatened
in turn to give him in charge, thinking, I
believe, that he was drunk, and he went
away, looking terribly angry and vindictive.
272 A GAME OF CHANCE.
The next day he made no sign, but the day-
following, as I was dressing to go out, a
message came from my husband to say that
he wanted to speak to me in the library. I
went down at once, feeling that all was over,
and that nothing short of a miracle could
save me now, and the bitterness of knowing
that Count Henri, whom I had trusted so im-
plicitly, had died, leaving me in this wretch's
power, added tenfold to my misery. But a
worse bitterness was in store. When I went
into the room, I found my husband seated
at the table, looking pale and angry, and
opposite to him Count Henri's valet, looking
malicious and triumphant. He had a packet,
tied with ribbon, in his hand. It was not
large, but it struck me at the time that I had
never written enough letters to his master
to make a packet of even that moderate size.
My husband went into the matter at once.
* This man,' he said, ' the servant of the late
Count Henri de Flavelle, who shot himself
THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 273
at Monte Carlo ' — as if I did not know it
already — 'says he has lately been in commu-
nication with you about certain letters which,
according to him, were written by you in
cypher to his late master, and that you re-
fused to buy them at any price. You may
suppose that I was very glad to hear you
had refused to treat with him, but, nothing
daunted, he now comes to me, and offers
them at a certain price ; if I refuse to
give it, he threatens to publish them and
ruin you. If you really kept up a private
correspondence with the Count, I do not see
that it matters very much to either of us
whether the letters are made public by him
or by me, but perhaps you will be good
enough to examine them with me in this
man's presence. I think I can tell whether
they were written by you or not.' And by
that I knew he remembered that he had
taught me the cypher to which he had the
key. I shall never forget what it cost me to
VOL. I T
2 74 A GAME OF CHANCE.
appear calm and unconcerned, but, with ruin
staring me In the face, I said, ' Yes ; there Is
only one cypher I can write ; the one you
yourself taught me, and you have the key.'
'And perhaps I shall use It, too,' he replied.
' Now then,' he added to the man, * open
that packet of yours, and let me examine
It.' The man untied the ribbon. About a
dozen letters fell out upon the table, and one
by one he opened them and laid them before
my husband. I sat still, looking on. Some-
thing told me they were not mine ; and If
not mine, whose ? ' Look here, Caroline,'
my husband said at last, ' I do not know this
cypher ; It Is not the one I taught you.' I
got up and looked over his shoulder, but a
glance was enough ; not one of those two or
three dozen letters had been written by me.
I took up one of them and opened the sheet.
A small enclosure fell out. It was a note not
In cypher, and was to the effect that the
writer was tired of that mode of correspon-
THE LETTERS IN CYPHER. 275
dence, and would not use it any more.
There was no address and no date, and it
was signed, ' Ever yours, Estelle.' Imagine,
if you can, my feelings when it was all over,
and the man and his precious papers went
away and left me alone with my husband.
*You were very wise, Caroline,' he said, 'not
to give that man money. If he can find
Estelle, let him levy black-mail upon her.'
That was all he said, and he has not
mentioned the subject since. I suppose,"
she added, after a pause, '' that I ought to
rejoice over my escape, and I do so — some-
times ; but it kills me to think that the man
for whom I did and risked so much was
not " Her voice broke, and she burst
" Good heavens !" thought Otway, as
he watched her, '' what incomprehensible
creatures women are ! I believe this one
would have suffered less if her correspon-
dence with that worthless Count Henri had
276 A GAME OF CHANCE.
been laid before her husband, than she
suffers from the discovery of Estelle !"
He let her cry on for, to tell the truth, he
did not feel In the mood to offer consolation ;
and presently, ashamed of her agitation, she
dried her eyes and began to talk on in-
different subjects. He listened courteously,
as in duty bound ; but, at length, just as he
was becoming impatient and wondering how
long she meant to stay, he heard steps and
voices on the stairs ! Surely it was Sir John
Erskine who was speaking; and was it — could
it be possible — ? But no ; the second voice
was also that of a man, and he was simply
pointing out the way to the visitor. But
before Otway had time for any more con-
jectures, and as Mrs. Ogilvey was in the
act of drawing on her long gloves, the door
opened and Sir John Erskine appeared.
''Oh! I beg your pardon!" he said, "I
was told you were alone."
THE STREET BRAWL.
*' I NEVER was SO surprised In my life ! Never !
If It had been any other man but Otway ;"
so said Sir John, when, not for the first time
by any means, he described the scene In
his future son-in-law's chambers to Miss
It was a quiet evening In Halkin Street ;
the ladles had no engagement, Otway had
made the fourth at dinner, and he was now
with Letty In the smaller drawing-room.
She had been singing to him, and they were
now having what was, for them, quite a
"I went In," Sir John continued, "ex-
pecting to find my gentleman alone, and
278 A GAME OF CHANCE.
there he was with a handsome woman ; a
monstrous handsome woman dressed in black.
'And is she a specimen of your clients?' I
said to him as soon as she was gone. Then
he told me who she was— the wife of Ogilvey,
the millionaire. Otway knew her before she
was married, and she has been in a muddle
of some kind, and he has been helping her.
He's as good a fellow as ever lived, and
I wish Letty were a litde fonder of him.
There are times when I think this marriaee
is a mistake ; but if I say a word to her
about breaking it off, she flares up, and
asks me if she did not say, 'yes,' with her
eyes open ? But I say, what is the use of a
girl having her eyes open if her heart is
Otway, as it happened, went home that
night as happy as a king. Letty had never
been half as sweet or as kind, and during the
first part of the evening she had neither
teased nor snubbed him, and he had abstained
THE STREET BRAWL. 279
from those demonstrations of affection she so
He told her all about Mrs. Ogilvey's visit
to his chambers, and of Sir John's sudden
appearance, but Letty had had the story first-
hand from her father, so it fell rather flat.
'* I tried very hard to do my part, and feel
madly jealous, as the heroine of a book
always does, when the handsome rival is
found with her lover, but it was all to no
use," Letty said.
One of her hands was lying passive in
Otway's close clasp. " I am afraid there
must be something very wrong about me,"
she went on, "or else I am very sensible,
for I should not care if you had dozens
of the handsomest and most fascinating
women in England in your chambers every
day, one after the other. I could see that
papa was disgusted with me. Such a noble
opportunity for a scene, and I made nothing
of it. I have evidently no dramatic instinct."
2 8o A GAME OF CHANCE.
*' You know you need not be jealous of
me ; that Is the true reason," said Otway,
" But I do not know anything about it.
You tell me so, and I take no trouble to put
you to the test. But I am sure it is much
better for people not to feel deeply. It
seems to wear them out. There is Jack,
now ; I can see from his letters that he is
terribly jealous of Amy. It comes out in
everything he says, poor dear, and do you
suppose it makes him happier.^"
*' But to love his wife makes him happier.
I should be madly jealous of you if you gave
me cause; but still, I should be much happier
than if I had never known you."
" Should you indeed ? I think it is a great
mistake to be wrapped up in any one," said
this young and untried philosopher. " But
I must tell you, candidly, that I think for a
man of your experience — I suppose you have
experience — you make a great many mistakes
THE STREET BRAWL. 28 1
about me. I am not going to tell you what
they are, for I hope you will find them out
for yourself some day. It is not for a man
to learn from a foolish, ignorant girl ! Oh,
yes ; I am both foolish and ignorant, but I
know what I like."
" So do I," said Otway, raising the little
hand he held and pressing it passionately to
his lips. " I should like life to be one long
summer's day ; and I should like to lie at
your feet and look into your eyes and tell you
how I loved you."
'' But unless you chained me down you
would not get me to sit still to be worshipped
in that ridiculous fashion," cried Letty. " You
might as well be that Pagan god — was he a
god, by the way ? — who put on woman's
clothes and spun the distaff. I should
simply hate you if you were always lying
about at my feet !"
But in spite of these very emphatic pro-
tests, she was more loving and tender that
282 A GAME OF CHANCE.
evening than he had ever known her, and he
went back to his bachelor flat feeling that
fate had been very kind to him. His had
been a fairly smooth and prosperous life up
to that time ; but still, he had never looked
upon himself as either specially fortunate or
specially happy ; and without defining his
position to himself in actual words, he might
be said, during the past half-dozen years of
his life, to be a man who was waiting for
something to happen that never happened,
or to find something that was not to be found.
He was not obliged to work for a living,
but he qualified himself to work successfully ;
and then, when he might have made a
position for himself, and perhaps a name
also, he suddenly stopped short and allowed
others to get before him ; others, he said,
who wanted success more than he.
He was never absolutely idle, for his mind
was not a frivolous one ; and, moreover, he
was somewhat disposed to take life seriously;
THE STREET BRAWL. 283
he was neither decidedly of an imaginative or
poetical turn of mind, nor yet was he deci-
dedly practical ; but he had an uncomfortable
trick of wishing that things that pleased and
charmed him were useful as well. Hence, we
may infer, that he was not a true artist. Had
he been born poor he would probably have
done some excellent work in the world ; and,
from his equable temper and genial manner,
no one would have suspected him of not find-
ing life inordinately agreeable. How sweet
it could be made by the subtle magic of a
woman's eyes, he learned when, yielding to
the solicitations of political friends — although
he was by no means an ardent politician him-
self — he consented to stand for Stoneshire in
the Liberal interest, and met Letty Erskine.
Then he decided, as many a sensible man,
as well as many a fool, had decided before,
that he had found his true mission in life —
the philosopher's stone that turned every-
thing bare and ignoble to gold! He would
284 A GAME OF CHANCE.
marry the woman he loved if he could win
her heart — have children about him — enter
public life, if another opportunity presented
itself, and do as much in his generation as
possible, by way of thank-offering, we may
suppose, for his great happiness. A low
and paltry ambition, some would say; but
do not those who aim low sometimes hit the
Philanthropy and the exercise of it, as
Otway had seen it, had not hitherto attracted
him ; but it might be possible, he thought, for
him to strike out some method which would be
free from all the objectionable cant and hum-
bug that so disgusted him. But, at present,
all schemes and desires were in abeyance, for
he could not flatter himself that the founda-
tion stone of his future happiness was laid,
or, in other words, that Letty's heart was
won ; his patience — what might be called his
subservient devotion, seemed all thrown away,
but still he persevered.
THE STREET BRAWL. 285
On his way home that night, he came sud-
denly and unexpectedly upon that vulgar,,
brutal, and not uncommon sight in London,
a street brawl. If he had gone direct to his
flat in Members' Mansions he would have
missed It ; but, tempted by the extreme
beauty of the night, he passed his own door,
and strolled on towards Westminster. He
had just reached Broad Sanctuary w^hen the
noise of angry voices reached him, and
presently, at some distance in front, he saw
a group of struggling men.
A faint cry for help rose distinctly twice or
thrice above the angry voices and the thud of
blows. Otway began to run, and a young
fellow who had been keeping pace with him,
step for step, on the other side of the street,,
set off too. But before they reached the spot
the brawd was over; a cry of "police" had
frightened the roughs, and they dispersed in
all directions at full speed.
But, as it happened, they were scared by a
2 86 A GAME OF CHANCE.
false alarm ; there were no police visible,
and Otway, and the young man, who had
also been startled by the cries for help,
halted breathless beside the prostrate and
apparently lifeless body of a woman.
" Poor creature! Have they killed her?"
"The cowardly ruffians," cried his com-
panion, " I wish I had been up in time."
Something provincial in the youth's accent —
he did not look more than one or two-and-
twenty — struck Otway, and he looked up at
" I am afraid," he said, " you do not know
much of the London rough if you expect to
find him anything but a coward."
Then they stooped and examined the
woman ; she was bleeding from a wound on
the temple, and she had either fainted, or
been struck down insensible.
'' We cannot do anything for her, poor
creature, w^ithout help," said Otway.
THE STREET BRAWL. 287
"And here come two policemen at last,"
said his companion, ''but I could carry her
myself if f knew where to eo to."
When the woman had been taken to the
nearest hospital, and the men who had seen
the fight, and been first on the spot, had
given all the information in their power to
the officials, they found themselves once more
in the street together.
" It is almost too late," said Otway, " to
ask you to come home with me for some
refreshment, but my rooms are not far
The young man thanked him, but declined.
'' I must get back to my own diggings," he
said. He took off his hat, ruffled up his
thick, fair brown hair, and Otway w^as struck
by the remarkable beauty of his features, as
well as by the grace and symmetry of his tall,
" I am afraid she will die, poor soul !" he
said, "and perhaps it is the best thing that
288 A GAME OF CHANCE.
can happen to her. She had a wedding-ring
on her finger, did you notice ?"
"It was probably her husband who struck
her," said Otway. " Good-night ;" and he
held out his hand. '' I did not catch your
name just now, in the police office, he added,
*' nor your address. My name is Otway,
and I live in Members' Mansions, Victoria
'*And mine is Charles Rossitur, at your
service. I am lodging in Vauxhall Bridge
Road at present, but my home is at Stilling-
fort in Stoneshire. Good-night."
MRS. FORSTER's concert.
''And where are we going to-night? I for-
get," Otway asked. As usual, he was dining
in Halkin Street ; Sir John was down at the
House, and Otway was to accompany the
two ladies to some evening festivity.
'' We are going to Mrs. Forster's concert
in Grosvenor Place."
" Does anyone know why people give con-
certs r Otway asked again.
" To please people who love music, I
suppose," Letty answered.
"Oh, no! If that was the object they
would not ask twice as many as their rooms
will hold, and oblige them to listen to third-
rate amateurs murdering good music."
VOL. I. U
290 A GAME OF CHANCE.
''A hint to me," said Letty. "You need
never ask me to sing to you again."
'' I wish I had a chance of hearing you
to-night ; you know I never tire of Hstening
to you, but I cannot take the same Interest In
Mrs. or Miss Brown, Jones and Robinson."
'* But you are bound to admire Lady Judith
Forster, for she can sing almost as well as a
professional. We met her the other day, you
remember, at the Botanic Fete, and you said
she was very handsome."
"You mean that tall, dark girl, with the
fine eyes and the Jewish nose ? Yes, she Is
handsome ; and she sings, does she ?"
" She Is down for a duet with the man who
wrote that song you like so much — ' The
sigh of the west wind.' He calls himself
' Guy Montague,' and Mrs. Forster would
not tell me his real name. The Stilllngforts
have taken him up ; Lady Judith is their
daughter, and her aunt, Mrs. Forster, Is going
to bring him out at her concert."
MRS. FORSTER S CONCERT. 29 1
'' It is quite a little romance," said Otway.
'' I wonder what he is like. A clever-look-
ing, ugly little man, in spectacles, and with
wild hair, I say."
"Mrs. Forster told me he was remarkably
handsome," said Miss Lambton; ''and that
if she had an only daughter she would not
throw her too much in his way."
''And the Stillingforts are so proud," said
Letty. " Regular old-fashioned Tories, papa
says ; worse than he is himself."
"And, if I am not much mistaken," said
Otway, "their daughter has a will of her
own ; so let us hope that Mr. Guy Montague
is not too fascinating."
"Aunt Louise," said Letty, suddenly, "I
forgot to tell you that Herbert came across
young Rossitur last night."
"And who is young Rossitur, my dear?
Do I know him ?"
"You do not know him, but we think he
must be the brother of Bella Rossitur, Amy's
292 A GAME OF CHANCE.
maid, who married Pottinger, Jack's servant,
you know. He says he comes from Stilling-
"And he is one of the handsomest and
finest men I ever saw," said Otway. '' If his
sister is at all like him, I am not surprised
that she has turned some heads out in India.
Oh ! must we be going ? I suppose I cannot
hope for a seat next to you, my dearest ?" he
whispered to Letty, as he put on her cloak.
"That depends," she answered, laughing.
" I think you will probably spend the evening
standing in the door-way of the concert-room,
and in the dim distance you will be consoled
now and then by a peep at the top of my
And that was exactly what happened.
They were a little late ; the room was nearly
full, and Otway had the pleasure of seeing
Miss Lambton and her niece conveyed round
to two vacant seats at the side of the room
farthest from the door, close to which, as
MRS. FORSTER S CONCERT. 293
Letty had foretold, he took up his discon-
There was a duet for violin and piano
being performed when they arrived, and then
Lady Judith Forster came forward and sang
a solo in a rich contralto voice. She was a
grand-looking young woman, but Otway did
not admire her style ; the beauty of her face
and figure was striking, but the former was
rather too bold, and the latter too massive, to
please the man who had found his ideal in
Letty's slight, graceful, girlish loveliness. But
' for all that, he could not help looking with a
certain amount of admiration at the dark,
flashing eyes, the finely-moulded throat and
bust, and round, white arms of Lord Stllling-
fort's only daughter, and he found himself,
moreover, waiting with some impatience for
the appearance of Mr. Guy Montague.
The duet between him and Lady Judith
was the last item but one on the first part of
the programme, and Otway made up his
294 ^ GAME OF CHANCE.
mind not to move until it was over. There
was some clapping of hands when Lady
Judith appeared for the second time, but the
applause was evidently meant less for her
than for encouragement to the man by whom
she was led forward. More than one
whispered comment upon their good looks
was exchanged as they ranged themselves
side by side and prepared to sing, and Otway
looked and looked again, bewildered !
Where had he seen that handsome young
giant before, with the well-knit, pliant figure ;
the light brown hair curling all over his head,
and those large, deep, dark-blue eyes ? The
voice that came from the beautifully cut lips
was one of the sweetest and most ravishing
Otway had ever heard, but the song passed
almost unheeded, so absorbed was he in
watching the singer, who was no other than
the man who had run with him to the rescue
of the poor woman the night before — Charles
Rossitur, of Stillingfort !
MRS. FORSTER S CONCERT. 295
When the duet was finished, Otway left
the concert-room ; he was bewildered by the
surprise of finding his acquaintance of the
night before in Guy Montague, the young
musician whose name was in every mouth,
who had thrown such impassioned fervour
into his song with Lady Judith that it was
no wonder some among the audience looked
at one another and smiled.
" There w^ould be nothing strange in it,"
Otway said to himself, as he made his way
into a dimly-lighted room, that looked like a
small library or study, " if I did not happen to
know something of his belongings. Would
Lady Judith Forster sing with him in public
if she knew that his sister was a lady's maid
and the wife of a soldier in a dragoon regi-
ment ? I fear it would take a Radical like
myself to bridge over that social river," he
continued, as he went out through an open
French window, upon a dark and temptingly
cool balcony. " If I were beside Letty I
296 A GAME OF CHANCE.
might endure another hour of that atmos-
phere, but without her I have had enough.
I wonder what she thinks of Mr. Guy
Montague ?" He Hghted a cigarette, took
possession of one of the cane lounging-chairs
he found outside, and smoked peacefully for
about ten minutes ; then he heard the door
of the room behind him open and close, and
the rustle of a woman's dress. Presently she
" No ; not out there ; we might be over-
looked. This is much safer. No one will
think of coming in here, and we can get
back to the others before you have to sing
"By Jove!" said Otway, "I wish I was
out of this ! How can I let them know I am
here?" It was not possible without making
a scene, so he remained quiet. He seemed
to know by intuition who the woman was,
and also the man, who answered her in that
tender, thrilling voice.
MRS. FORSTER S CONCERT. 297
'' My queen !" he said. " How can I ever
thank you ?"
After that no loud word was spoken, but
the murmur of the voices never ceased, and
had Otway been able to look into the room,
he would have seen the head of Lord
Stillingfort's lovely daughter resting upon
the shoulder of Farmer Rossitur's handsome
son. It was the old, old story that has
been told so many hundred times, and that
will be told many hundred more, as long as
the world lasts, and men and women have
eyes to see and hearts to feel. The daughter
of one of the proudest men in England had
given her love to the son of a man whose
ancestors had for generations earned their
bread by the labour of their hands ; and,
moreover, they were men who had known the
ups and downs of fortune, but who had,
through all reverses, been honest, sturdy
Englishmen, part of the veritable back-bone
and sinew of the country.
298 A GAME OF CHA^XE.
And what was the inequaHty of birth In a
man so well favoured by nature as Charles
Rossitur ? He was handsome, manly, gifted ;
and, with his voice and appearance, one might
excuse the absence of the repose that marks
the caste of Vere de Vere. But what chance
had he of winning this daughter of a hundred
earls ? Mentally, Otway decided that he
had none ; and then he remembered what
Dr. Murray had told him about the young
man's mother ; how she had left her husband
and children with a man who was nearly
related to the father of this beautiful Lady
Judith, and brought ruin and disgrace upon
a happy home. Did Charles Rossitur know
this pitiful story, he wondered.
Yes. Charles Rossitur knew it vaguely —
Lady Judith did not know it at all, and
neither Rossitur nor the girl knew that, at
that very moment in the accident ward of a
London hospital, the outcast mother of that
handsome and gifted man lay dying ! And
MRS. FORSTER S CONCERT. 299
she, poor creature, would never know that
one of the two men who came to her rescue,
as she lay bleeding and senseless in the street
in the dead of night, was the son upon whose
face her eyes had never rested since he was
a toddling baby at her knee.
OTWAY OBEYS ORDERS.
It was Christmas week and real Christmas
weather. The water meadows outside Little
Centre Bridge were frozen, the Ice was firm
and smooth, and everyone had gone skating
mad. There had been a succession of
visitors at the Chase for a month or more,
and the house was full now, and would re-
main so until the middle of January. The
end of that month would see the Ersklnes
again in town for the meeting of Parliament
and Letty's marriage, which was fixed to take
place directly after Easter, and Easter fell
early that year.
Otway was at the Chase for Christmas as
a matter of course, and his brother and sister-
OTWAY OBEYS ORDERS. 301
in-law — the latter, It will be remembered, was
the half-sister of Jack Erskine's wife — had
paid a long visit. They were about to leave
England and settle in Florida, in America.
Mrs. Tom Otway was not very strong ; the
climate of Florida was said to be the very
thing for her, and her husband said they
would be able to "push their boys;" a feat
less hard to accomplish there than in over-
Tom Otway was charmed with Letty, and
Eetty was charmed with him ; she could not
understand why Herbert was so sentimental
and yielding, when his brother was so prac-
tical and obstinate, and it did not occur to
her that she had never, so to speak, seen the
real Herbert yet ; he had disappeared for a
time under the overwhelming waters of a
great passion for a beautiful, whimsical girl,
whose coldness, tempered by rare fits of
sweetness and gentleness, nearly drove him
302 A GAME OF CHANCE.
Mrs. Tom Otway had naturally a great
deal to say for her half-sister Amy, but the
only photograph she had to show gave a
very poor Impression of her to her new
relations. " It is simply not even like her!"
Mrs. Tom declared. " She has the most
lovely complexion and beautiful hair, and
this thing makes her look black and ugly.
I have never seen a really good photograph
of her. But you must all come out and pay
us a visit in Florida, some day ; you, and
Herbert, and Jack, and Amy. It will be
This was a favourite project of Mrs. Tom's,
and she was also never tired of telling Letty
that "Tom " thought his brother very much
'' Tom says he used to be the most obsti-
nate, masterful and self-willed man alive, but
you seem to have made a lamb of him. Tom
is amused to see how he obeys you, and how
afraid he is of vexing you, or crossing you in
OTWAY OBEYS ORDERS. 303
any way." And Letty, as she listened, would
put up her pretty lip, and think to herself
how much nicer It would be to follow than
to lead. She was very tired of ruling over
a kingdom in which there was never any
When the Otways went away. Lord and
Lady Stilllngfort and their daughter came
for a few days, and Otway had an oppor-
tunity of studying Lady Judith. He had
never told anyone, not even Letty, so sacred
In his eyes was the love secret he had sur-
prised, of the scene that had taken place in
the library at Mrs. Forster's, the night of the
concert. And apparently nothing had come
of it. He and Rossitur were called upon to
give evidence at the inquest upon the poor
woman who had been found by them half-
dead in Broad Sanctuary.
Otway, on that occasion, had been struck
by the young musician's manner ; he had
not the slightest clue to the identity of the
304 A GAME OF CHANCE.
woman, the police had not been able to
unearth her history for more than a twelve
month back, and the son was wholly uncon-
scious when, with Otway, he contributed to
the expenses of her funeral, that she was
his own miserable, disgraced mother. By
all the laws that govern sensational romance,
he ought, by some subtle Intuition, to have
guessed who she was ; but, unfortunately. It
was not so ; and It was nothing but his fine,
highly-strung, imaginative and sensitive tem-
perament that brought tears to his fine eyes,
and a quiver to his mobile mouth, when the
story of the dead woman's wretched life, as
far as it was known, was related to him.
It was specially Interesting to Otway to
hear how freely Lady Judith spoke of the
young musician to him and Letty during
their walks and rides together at the Chase.
'' We have a musical genius at Stllllng-
fort," the girl said. " Charles Rossltur. He
has published several songs under the nom
OTWAY OBEYS ORDERS. 305
de plume of Guy Montague. I tell him he
ought to put his own name, but he says
people would think nothing of him if they
knew he was only Charles Rossitur, the
farmer's son. His father is one of papa's
tenants, but he is not a nice old man. He
hates us for some reason or other, and papa
says he Is a terrible Radical. But you are
a Radical, are you not, Mr. Otway ?"
" But not a terrible one, I hope."
" I think I must be one too," the young
lady w^ent on, "for I do not care what people
are if they are handsome and clever ; and
Charlie Rossitur is just like a Greek god —
not that I ever saw one — he is so beautiful.
But you must have seen him, both of you, at
my aunt's concert ?"
Otway thought of the scene in the library,
and smiled. '' I thought he was one of
the handsomest men I had ever seen," he
"There, now!" cried Lady Judith, with a
VOL. I. X.
306 A GAME OF CHANCE.
rush of colour over her face, '' I am glad
other people see it too. You must hear him
play the organ in our church, when you come
CO see us It is something too beautiful to
listen to him. We have a very fine organ at
the Park, and when he came from Germany
— he studied there for three years — I made
papa let me have some lessons."
"So," thought Otway, "that was how it
" I am surprised that he is satisfied to
stay in a little place like Stillingfort," said
Again the wave of colour passed over
Lady Judith's face. *' It is his home," she
said, quite softly, ''and he is fond of the
place. But I am sorry sometimes he stays,'
she added, presently, in a different tone, *' for
he cannot associate pleasantly with all the
farmers and people about, and our set look
down upon him. It makes me so angry
sometimes to see young men, who can only
OTWAV OBEYS ORDERS. 307
ride and shoot, taking no notice of him, or,
what is worse, snubbing him ! Papa allowed
us to ask him to the Park once or twice
when we had people staying with us, and I
was ashamed of the way the men treated him.
The women were civil enough," she added,
with an angry little laugh, "but that was
because he is so handsome. It was not as
trying for him, poor fellow, at Aunt Forster's,
for people did not know who he was."
One day, w^hen she was running on as
usual about the handsome organist, Letty,
somewhat to Otway's surprise, asked her
point blank if she knew anything of his
" Alice lives at home with her father,"
Lady Judith answered, "and I think Bella,
the other one, is married abroad."
"She is lady's maid to my brother's wife,
in India," Letty replied, "and she is married
to a soldier in my brother's regiment."
" Is that really true ?" Lady Judith cried ;
308 A GAME OF CHANCE.
and this time it was not a tinge of colour that
rose and passed quickly away, but her whole
face and throat grew scarlet.
" Perfectly true," answered Letty ; ** and it
is really quite curious the number of times
we have heard of these Rossiturs since Jack
first mentioned his wife's maid. I dare say
she will be here with them some day, when
Jack and Amy come home."
'' Have you noticed," said Letty to her
lover, a few days later, " that Lady Judith
has never mentioned the fascinating organist
since I told her his sister was Amy's maid .'*"
" 1 believe she Is over head and ears In
love with him," said Otway, ''and that her
friends are as blind as moles not to see what
Is going on."
'' She will never marry him ; she Is much
"Then she ought not to break his heart."
" Do men's hearts ever break ?"
" Mine would if you threw me over."
OTWAY OBFA'S ORDERS. 309
'* Suppose I try the experiment ? To tell
you the truth, I am getting "
" Too fond of me, I hope, to be so cruel."
" Not at all. Tired of you was what I was
going to say."
" Oh, Letty ! My love ! My darling !"
"Yes, honestly and truly. I said to myself
only this morning, and very seriously too, ' I
am getting tired of Herbert ; there is no
variety in him. He hung about me yester-
day ; he will hang about me to-day ; and
to-morrow will find him hanging still.' "
" What can I do when I love the very
ground you walk on ?"
"I am sorry for the ground if it bores it
as much as it does me."
" My darling, say you do not mean it ! No.
It is of no use for you to laugh at me. Here
I kneel at your feet until you say you care
just a little."
" And will you go, then, and not come
back for two hours ?"
3IO A GAME OF CHANCE.
" I promise not to come back until you bid
'' Well, then — I do care just a little ; but
I very much dislike that trick you have
of falling on your knees before me every
moment. Now go !"
And he went.
But an hour had not passed before she
was looking for him everywhere. " Herbert !
Herbert ! Has anyone seen Mr. Otway ?"
He was soon found when she wanted him,
and he came to her with a radiant face.
" You look as delighted as Orion does
when he is coming for a walk," she said.
'' I have such charming news for you. Papa
has just heard from Arthur Filmer — he is in
Jack's regiment, you know. He has arrived
in England on sick leave, and he wants to^
know if he can come here for a few days. Is
not that delightful ? He will tell us all about
But Otway did not reply.
LETTY GIVES HER OPINION.
Bur, happily for Otway's peace of mind,
Arthur Filmer, when he came, showed no
decided incHnation to fall in love with his old
playfellow Letty. He had heard of her en-
gagement from Jack, and he made Otway's
acquaintance with such evident pleasure, that
the latter could not but join the rest of the
family in their cordial welcome to the young
soldier. Letty's pleasure in his society was
frank and unaffected, but even her lover's
watchful eyes could find nothing in her
manner to supply food for jealousy.
Filmer's eyes were watchful also, but it
was not until he had been a week at the
Chase that he began to suspect that Letty
312 A GAME OF CHANCE.
was not, by any means, as devotedly in love
with her future husband as he was with her ;
and, giving much thought to his discovery, he
fell to wondering why she should marry a
man she did not particularly care for. Had
Filmer himself been of a different stamp, the
next question would probably have been,
*' Would it be possible for her to like some
other man better ?" But he was not given to
covet the goods that would not by fair means
fall to his share ; and, conscious that Letty
was not for him, he did not allow himself
the luxury of falling in love ; yet, at the
same time, he knew full well that had there
been no Herbert Otway in the way, that
bright winsome face would have done its
appointed work upon him fast enough.
Not being able to indulge himself in one
way, he felt that he must do so in another,
so he set himself to find out why she was
apparently so indifferent to her lover. It
happened that Otway had to go to town on
LETTY GIVES HER OPINION. ^I^
business soon after Christmas ; during his
absence Letty and Filmer were very much
thrown together, and, one afternoon, while
they were out riding, he boldly attacked her
on the subject.
" You may say what you please," he said,
" but you cannot deceive me ; you are not
what I call in love with him, and I am afraid
you will both be very unhappy."
*' But if he is satisfied, it is all right," Letty
answered. " I like him very much, and if I
do not tear my hair, and turn my face to the
wall, and weep while he is away from me for
a few days, I think I ought to be compli-
mented for my good sense, instead of being
" No one wants you to tear your hair, and
behave like a maniac," replied Arthur, "but
surely there is something between the cold-
ness of an icicle and the fury of a lunatic. I
have watched you when you get letters from
him, and they might be from — well, from
314 A GAME OF CHANCE.
me, or your father, or Jack, for all you seenr
'* I think, oil the whole, I prefer Jack's
letters," she answered. " They are less —
what shall I say? — less monotonous. I know
exactly what Herbert's are before I open
'' I wish you would tell me why you are
going to marry him," Fllmer broke In,
"Because I am! There Is a woman's
reason for you, and now I forbid you to talk
about him any more. Sufficient for the day,
yoii know !" and she gave him a saucy look.
"And I want to hear something more about
Jack and Amy. What were you saying to
Aunt Louise about her last night ? You
must not let the old lady or papa suspect that
she Is fast, you know ; please remember that.
But you may tell me, and I want to know
positively — Is she fast ?"
" I should not call her exactly fast ; to tell
LETTY GIVES IIER OPINION. 315
you the truth, I think she is too lazy ; but
she cannot Hve without admiration and flat-
tery, and somehow, she contrives to make
everyone — every man, I mean — do exactly as
she wishes. I think I was about the only
one who did not fetch and carry willingly,
and, the consequence is, I am not a
** You do not like her, then?"
" Oh, yes ; I like her well enough, but I
should never fall in love with her, she is too
selfish ; and I confess it vexes me sometimes
to see the way Jack spoils her. She winds
him completely round her finger."
'' And is he jealous of her ?"
'' I am afraid he is. I know there have
been one or tw^o pitched battles already —
which she won — about her flirtations. I do
not think there is any harm in them, but she
likes to have men dangling about her ; and
there are women, you know, who do not seem
able to exist without writing and receiving
3l6 A GAME OF CHANCE.
little sentimental notes that really mean
"Oh! she can write, then?" said Letty.
'' She never wrote to any of us since she was
Filmer laughed. '' I do not think she is
much of a scribe," he said.
" I am sure I shall not care for her," said
Letty, decidedly. "I dislike women of that
kind very much. I do not think I ever met
one of them in the flesh, but they are very
common in books, and they generally make
"Where Jack was wrong," said Filmer,
" was in not getting rid, at once, of that maid
she is so fond of — or so afraid of — I don't
know which it is. If ever there was a bad
lot on earth it's Bella Rossitur — or Mrs.
Pottinger, as she is now, worse luck for that
poor fellow Pottinger. By the way, he had
sun-stroke not long after he married her, and
I think he is very queer in his head at times.
LETTY GIVES HER OPINION. 317
He and his wife lead a regular cat and dog
life, but somehow, after their worst quarrels
she gets round him again, and he Is ready to
kill anyone who says a word against her."
"Is she very handsome .^"
" Very ; remarkably clever too, and lady-
like In manner when she chooses ; and Jack
may say what he likes, but there Is an extra-
ordinary likeness between her and his w^ife ;
everyone sees it except Jack, and he gets
perfectly furious If It Is mentioned before
him, for Madam Rossltur Is not a favourite
of his. He would send her packing In no
time If he were not afraid of vexing his
" I had no Idea Jack was so foolish," Letty
exclaimed, angrily. " And that Is what comes
of being In love ; this wonderful love you talk
so much about, but which seems to me to
turn sensible men Into semi-idiots."
''And women Into — what .'^" exclaimed
Filmer, much amused.
3l8 A GAME OF CHANCE.
" I have never seen a woman desperately
in love, so I do not know. Oh, yes, I believe
our Rector's wife, who is about three or four
months married, is supposed to be very much
in love with her husband. I can only judge
by the way she stares at him when he is
preaching ; I often long to throw a hymn
book at her head."
Fi.lmer laughed heartily. '' It is quite
wonderful to find a young lady so deter-
minately set against love and lovers as you
are," he said, "but, on the whole, I like the
good, old, silly fashion the best."
" I suppose," said Letty, calmly ignoring
this last remark, "you never heard of the
wonderful brother this woman Rossitur
" Never. In what way is he wonderful ?"
'' As a musician ; he is organist of Stllllng-
fort Church, his native place ; he has written
some very pretty songs ; he is very hand-
some — the handsomest man I ever saw — I
LETTV GIVES HER OPINION. 319
think ; and I am afraid Lord Stilllngfort's
only daughter, Lady Judith Forster, Is In
love with him."
*'Here It Is again," cried Fllmer. *'Love Is
not to be got rid of, you see."
"I do not object to it In this case," said
Letty. "There Is something romantic In
the Earl's daughter being in love with the
handsome organist, who is the son of a
farmer on her father's property. But you
should have seen Lady Judith's face when I
told her that young Rossitur's sister was
lady's maid to my brother's wife. Poor
thing ; I saw it was a blow ; and now suppose
we give up talking of love and lovers and
romance, and have a gallop. I know every
fence between this and the Chase, and Lll
race you home for a pair of gloves."
"A dozen if you like; but what would
Otway say ?"
"He w^ould race, too, I hope, if he were
here — come along."
It was the eve of Letty Ersklne's wedding-
day ; long looked forward to, it had come at
last. They were all in town again ; every-
thing was ready, and Otway, scarcely able
to realise that his happiness was almost
within his grasp, went about during the
day that immediately preceded that fixed
for the wedding like a man in a dream.
Letty was restless, preoccupied ; strangely
uncertain in temper, and to her lover, if
possible, more undemonstrative than she
had been during the early days of her
engagement. She avoided being alone with
him, and her treatment of him, while it
gave him more than one pang of dis-
THE WEDDING-DAY. 32 I
appointment and pain, made him long all
the more ardently for the moment when
the knowledge that she was his for ever-
more would break down the barrier raised
by her coldness and reserve.
He never guessed how, as the hours went
by and brought him nearer and nearer to the
moment he anticipated with such joy, she
shrank from leaving her home with this man
to whom she had pledged herself, believing
that, by-and-by, she would care for him and
be happy ; and when she questioned herself as
to the cause of her repugnance to the marriage
she could find no answer, save that she dis-
liked him for being less manly in his devotion
to her than she wished her husband to be.
It was a strange objection for a girl to
make to a lover, and Letty made it to herself
in perfect good faith. She had at times a
dim suspicion that it was not a valid objection,
so she never spoke of it to anyone, and she
fought against it, and even laughed at it
VOL. I. Y
22 2 A GAME OF CHANCE.
"Mv DEAR Mrs. Ogilvey,
'' I have not forgotten you, and I
am sorry to hear you are in trouble. Expect
me to luncheon to-morrow at two.
" Herbert Otwav."
He pushed the note aside, as soon as it
was written, and, opening a drawer, took out
a cabinet photograph of Letty Erskine in her
riding-dress, which, strange to say, she had
had taken to gratify a desire of his, and fell
to rapt contemplation of the sweet face he
loved. Needless to say, he knew every line
by heart already, but was he ever tired of
gazing at those saucy laughing eyes, and the
exquisite turn of the throat and chin ? The
likeness was an admirable one, as the artist
had, happily, caught one of his sitter's most
bewitching expressions, and Otway was such
a miser about the picture that he longed to
order the negative to be destroyed. How
Letty would have admired him, if he had had
NO. 200, QUEEN S GATE TERRACE. 223
the audacity to say that he, and he only,
should possess a copy of that particular
photograph ; but he did nothing of the kind,
and, with the most amiable liberality, she
dispensed them far and wide among her
It w^as with his mind still full of Letty's
charms, that Otway at length put his reply to
Mrs. Ogilvey into an envelope, and rang the
bell for his servant to take it to the post
without delay ; then he dressed and went
down to his chambers.
He dined at Halkin Street the same
evening. There was a large dinner-party, and
he hoped to sit next to Letty, but she was at
the other end of the table, laughing, talking
and enjoying herself with some man Otway
had never seen before. He had known her,
now in many moods, but he found her in a
new one on this evening ; she was in the
wildest spirits, but she scarcely spoke to him ;
he followed her about, as usual, and once or
324 A GAME OF CHANCE.
At length it was over. The last good-
bye was said — the last handful of rice was
thrown, and the bride and bridegroom started
on their short journey to Richmond. Otway
was radiant when he set out, but when he
stepped out of the carriage at the end of
the drive, there was a look of perplexity
and keen disappointment on his expressive
What had gone wrong ?
He led Letty, in silence, to the drawing-
room, and left her there, while he dismissed
the smiling and obsequious coachman ; but
even when he was free to rejoin his bride
he lingered for full five minutes before he
entered the room, and as he turned the
handle of the door he muttered, "It is very
Letty was seated by the fire ; there was a
brilliant flush on her cheeks and her eyes
were sparkling, but, without looking at her,
Otway walked to the window and stood look-
THE WEDDING-DAY. 325
ing at the view over the river, beautiful even
under the cold sunlight of early spring.
It was nearly ten minutes before he sud-
denly turned and faced her. " Letty," he
said, quietly, but his voice had in it a ring of
pain that was lost upon her, so absorbed was
she in her own view of the situation, " did
you tell me the truth as we drove down from
town, or were you only jesting, just to try
me ? For God's sake, my darling, let me
know the worst at once ; when you told me
you did not love me you gave me such a
blow that I was stunned by it ! I cannot
understand ! I cannot believe it ! I will not
believe it ! It is a disappointment so cruel —
so unexpected, that it unmans me — I cannot
bear it !" and he put up his hands as if to shut
out some hideous object. As he did so some-
thing between a sneer and a smile passed over
Letty's lovely mouth.
" He will cry presently," she said to her-
self. Then she said aloud, quite calmly and
326 A GAME OF CHANCE.
coldly, '* What I told you Is quite true. I
am sorry It hurts you so much, but of what
use Is It to say I love you when I know I do
not? I have been uncertain about It for a
long time, but now that we are married, I
know the mistake I have made. But per-
haps, If — If you would give me a little time to
get used to the feeling that what Is done can-
not be undone, I may not dislike you quite as
much as I do to-day. Just now, I feel that
there Is no one In the world so — so — I really
must say It, or you will not understand — so
obnoxious to me as you are."
If she had stuck a knife deep Into his heart
he could not have endured a keener pang of
pain. For a few seconds he looked at her
with half-Incredulous amazement, as If ex-
pecting that a smile or glance would betray
the Ill-timed jest, but she looked at him with
such cold, unloving eyes, that he knew she
must be In earnest ; and being In cruel, ter-
rible earnest himself he put the finishing
THE WEDDING-DAY. 327
Stroke to his discomfiture by stooping to
beg for the love he so ardently desired.
" Letty ! Letty !" he cried, as he threw
himself at her feet and tried to clasp her
in his arms, "if you do not love me I shall
A great wave, not of love, but of passionate
contempt, swept over her as she heard this
abject appeal ; if he had but given back scorn
for scorn he would have conquered, but the
girl who had never known suffering herself,
and for whom the beauty of self-surrender
had no meaning, was deaf to the voice of
She drew herself away, and thrusting out
her hands to push him back, cried sharply,
"You call yourself a man and say such words
as those ? I not only do not love you, but I
despise you ! Go away and leave me to
Stung to the quick, he rose to his feet with
a bound ; a deep flush of mortification and
328 A GAME OF CHANCE.
wounded pride was on his face, and his eyes,
had she but seen them, were flashing fire !
But not one word did he utter, and it was
only by the bang of the door behind him that
she knew he was gone.
When she saw him pass outside the
French window she gave a great sigh of
reHef; then pressing her handkerchief to
her eyes, she remained motionless, save for
the quick panting of her bosom, which be-
trayed that she was forcing back hysterical
It was nearly two hours before Otway
came back. During his solitary ramble
among the leafless trees in Richmond Park,
he had fought a bitter fight, and won a
victory that was scarcely less disastrous than
a defeat ; but he was a different man when,
with the keen sharp wind of the March
evening blowing in his face, he re-entered
the cottage. In a short time, he and his
bride would, once more, be face to face,.
THE WEDDING-DAY. 329
but if her mood was changed so also, was
When she pushed him from her, he for
the first time, saw himself and his slavish
devotion with her contemptuous eyes, and
never again should she have the opportunity
given her to address "him as she had done
that afternoon. *' By Heaven!" he said,
" she must kneel to me before one word of
love passes my lips again."
But there was another shock in store for
him. When, at eight o'clock, dinner was
announced, Mrs. Otway was nowhere to be
END OF FIRST VOLUME.
TILLOTSON AND SON, MAWDSLEY STREET